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Brad Petersen
Director of
Communications
1066 ECE Building
306 N. Wright Street
Urbana, IL 61801
Phone: (217) 244-6376
bradp@illinois.edu

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Meg Dickinson
Communications Specialist
1068 ECE Building
306 N. Wright Street
Urbana, IL 61801
Phone: (217) 300-6664
megd@illinois.edu

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Recent News

Illinois wins $1.5 million NSF 'Data Infrastructure Building Blocks' grant to accelerate materials-to-device processes

Illinois wins $1.5 million NSF 'Data Infrastructure Building Blocks' grant to accelerate materials-to-device processes

It can take 20 years between the creation of a new material in the laboratory and the fabrication of next-generation devices that employ the material.

Two ECE finalists named for CIMIT Prize

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By Jonathan Damery, ECE ILLINOIS
June 16, 2014

  • Two ECE-led student teams have been selected among 10 finalists for the Center for Integration of Medicine and Innovation Technology's Student Technology Prize for Primary Healthcare.
  • A team led by Jonathan Fajardo Cortes is working with Assistant Professor Gang Logan Liu to develop a wristband that can monitor glucose levels in sweat.
  • A team led by Clarence Chan is working with Professor Stephen Boppart to develop a smart system for integrating home health-care devices.
Smart, sophisticated wristbands and other mobile devices are becoming standard in health-care technology. It’s a move toward flexibility. There are commercial pedometers and heart-rate monitors, readily available at stores near you. There are other smart scales that calculate body mass index, in addition to weigh. Now, the question is, how many functions can these devices acquire? Could they be used to monitor diseases? Can these functions be integrated into a unified system?
 
Entering this rush of technology development are two ECE-led student teams, who think the answer to those questions — disease monitoring and health-care networking — is yes. The teams have been selected among 10 finalists for the Center for Integration of Medicine and Innovation Technology’s Student Technology Prize for Primary Healthcare, which, for each team, carries an initial $10,000 award.
 
One team, led by Jonathan Fajardo Cortes, a recent graduate who studied electrical engineering, and Assistant Professor Gang Logan Liu, is focusing on hardware — developing a wristband that could replace the standard glucometer used for diabetic monitoring.
The glucometer wristband team (L-R): Jonathan Fajardo Cortes and Assistant Professor Gang Logan Liu. Not pictured: Antonius Bramm.
The glucometer wristband team (L-R): Jonathan Fajardo Cortes and Assistant Professor Gang Logan Liu. Not pictured: Antonius Bramm.
Instead of a finger-prick extracting a drop of blood to check glucose levels, which some individuals must do multiple times each day, Cortes’ wristband would use a biosensor to detect and monitor glucose levels in sweat. 
 
“You wouldn’t need to worry about doing it,” Cortes said of the detection. “It’s just going to do it automatically.”
 
The proposed device would use near-field communication to connect the device to a phone, which would then alert the individual when his or her glucose level needs attention. The near-field communication system would also be used to power the device. “This is a new thing that we’re trying,” Cortes said. “We’ve seen it power LEDs or small devices, but we’re trying to power a full wearable device.”
 
The team also includes Antonius Bramm, a student at Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich, who Cortes met during a summer study abroad at the Technical University of Munich. It was the two of them, bouncing around ideas, who initially brainstormed the wristband.  
 
The other finalist team is led by Clarence Chan, a freshman in electrical engineering, who is working with Professor Stephen Allen Boppart to develop a smart, cloud-based network for home-based health care that would seamlessly connect devices like pedometers, smart scales, blood oximeters, and perhaps even Cortes’s wristband.
 
“It’s not a replacement technology, it’s a supplemental technology,” Chan said. “By developing software integration, we hope to make the data collected more than just standalone things, but something which, when combined together, can form a different image of a patient's health.”
 
The network could be accessed using Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, and with this integration, the team thinks that health care could be more efficient and responsive.
The health-care network team (L-R): Alexander Wei, Perut Boribalburephan, Clarence Chan, and Sang Ser. Not pictured: Professor Stephen Boppart.
The health-care network team (L-R): Alexander Wei, Perut Boribalburephan, Clarence Chan, and Sang Ser. Not pictured: Professor Stephen Boppart.
Daily health trends could be determined, aggregated from all of the devices, and even though the patient wouldn’t be at a hospital or clinic, the system could alert a physician of any anomalies that require immediate attention.
 
“This hasn't been done before,” Chan said. “It’s that smart processing, in a way, that distinguishes us.” 
 
Chan’s other teammates include Perut Boribalburephan, also a freshman in electrical engineering, and Sang Ser and Alexander Wei, freshmen in mechanical science and engineering.
 
“So far, the stuff in the class, I don’t think it’s as hard as the stuff that we’re doing right now,” Chan said, “regardless of whether it’s software, hardware, or manufacturing of the casing.”
 
The Center for Integration of Medicine and Innovative Technology is a non-profit consortium of Boston-area teaching hospitals and universities. The finalists for the student competition are expected to use the initial $10,000 award to invest in product development. The teams have until the beginning of July to submit their final proposals, and in August, the top three winners will be announced, with cash prizes of up to $150,000 for the first-place finisher.
 
“This is the first step that can start everything,” Cortes said of the competition. With this preliminary boost and subsequent product development, he sees genuine market potential for his wristband. If modified, it might even work for other diseases. Of course, the next step for both teams involves vying for the top positions in the August results.
 
The wristband and health-care network, coupled with other devices in the medical toolbox, have the potential to be life-changing technologies. “That’s why I basically went into this area,” Cortes said.
 

Editor's note: media inquiries should be directed to Brad Petersen, Director of Communications, at bradp@illinois.edu or (217) 244-6376.

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