For most people, maintaining an ideal weight can be a struggle. The sight of a bathroom scale can make us cringe and we avoid stepping on it at all costs, as an unsatisfying number will surely ruin the rest of our day. But this way of thinking can be harmful in the long run and should be overcome. Knowing that your body is unhealthy should prompt you to make changes and seek a better lifestyle, and a bathroom scale is just a tool to help you achieve that. This concept is being taken one step further, as a team of researchers from Kaunas University of Technology (KTU) are developing a bathroom scale that can potentially save your life.
The bathroom scale has traditionally been used to measure your current weight and perhaps some other data such as body fat percentage and total water percentage. While knowing your weight in itself can help determine your body mass index—one of the main factors for metabolic and cardiovascular disease—a team of biomedical engineers are developing a multifunctional scale that monitors your health and informs you about potentially life-threatening conditions such as arteriosclerosis and cardiac arrhythmias.
“Hospitals are fully equipped with advanced technologies for diagnosing illnesses and critical conditions, but it is too expensive to use this equipment for everyday health monitoring. On the other hand, people do not have many devices for personal health monitoring at home, and these devices could be very practical”, says Vaidotas Marozas, the director of the KTU Institute of Biomedical Engineering.
Not only is this an exciting prospect, but one that can be easily incorporated into the household of people not too familiar with high tech devices. This is especially true for elderly individuals who may be intimidated by new technology. Having a familiar device, such as a bathroom scale, can help them feel more comfortable with technology and they will be more likely to use it to monitor their health.
A prototype of the device has already been developed, with the team now improving and adding functions and parameters. They’ve developed a method that can help identify problems in a person’s arterial system by analyzing the pulses sent from the feet to the heart, and its travel time from the heart back to the machine.
“We are measuring the speed of blood pulse wave: the faster the speed, the stiffer the arteries, which, in turn, can already warn about the development of arteriosclerosis, and the latter can be the cause of increased blood pressure and other conditions,” says Birut Paliakait, KTU biomedical engineering master’s student.
The engineering team is diligently working on the device in hopes of making it available to those who would benefit the most. They would also like to expand that parameters the bathroom scale-like device can monitor, as they are currently exploring the potential for measuring potassium concentration in the blood; a potential cause for cardiac arrhythmias. The engineers go on to say that the material used in their device need less expensive material than a typical smartphone, but instead relies on data processing algorithms and the implementation of intelligent ideas.