Concussion research project uses smartphone to detect symptoms

10 Oct 2016

Man with head injury. Image: mariyaermolaeva/Shutterstock

A joint Irish and Japanese research team has developed a new platform called Kiduku that can detect if a person has a concussion using a sensor and a smartphone.

For the past three years, the teams from the Insight Centre for Data Analytics based in University College Dublin (UCD) and the Japanese tech giant Fujitsu have been investing huge amounts of time into tackling the issue of concussion.

The attitude towards concussion in sport has changed rapidly over the past two years, from a condition often ignored by coaches to one given top medical priority after an incident on the pitch.

Data uploaded via smartphone

This has largely been due to the fact that while researchers know how a concussion occurs and the immediate effects, the long-term damage remains up for debate.

In the meantime, this joint Irish and Japanese team is looking to at least aid detection immediately following a head injury, using its new platform called Kiduku: an amalgamation of the Japanese phrases “to be aware” and “to construct”.

Devised by a team of physiotherapists, engineers, programmers and data visualisation experts, Kiduku would be available as an application on a person’s smartphone. It would provide clinicians with direct, easy-to-interpret sensor readings across a range of indicators such as gait, posture and balance.

The readings are taken by low cost, off-the-shelf sensor technology and uploaded to the cloud via smartphones.

The combined team has aided in the development of algorithms to interpret the readings as quickly as possible before sending them to a clinician.

Tracking recovery

These same sensors can also be used to capture motion data in step-down care settings and in non-clinical environments throughout the day, giving clinicians a more objective and accurate portrait of the patient’s movement and recovery over time.

“Traditional monitoring of concussion is based on in-clinic observation and patient reports,” said Prof Brian Caulfield, director of the Insight Centre.

“Patients routinely perform better in standard motion tests under observation. By analysing data from these sensors whilst in the home or exercising, we can get a more accurate picture of how a patient is moving and balancing.”

This latest announcement marks the successful completion of the first phase of the project, with plans to present the Kiduku platform at the upcoming 5th International Consensus Conference on Concussion in Sport in Berlin on 27 and 28 October.

Interestingly, the Kiduku project began three years ago with the intention of researching monitoring services and assisted independent living for senior citizens, but it was found to be especially suited to monitoring concussion.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic