Sensors & sensibility

To improve wearable technology, understand human behavior

Professor John Lach speaks with a student
Photo credit: Stacy Evans

What if a skin patch, powered off human motion or body heat, could allow your doctor to check your vital signs from afar, or an adult child to monitor an elderly parent’s daily activities from a smartphone, or an obstetrician to check a baby’s development in the womb?

Today we have Fitbits, smart watches, and apps that monitor basic metrics. In the rapidly evolving field of wearable-sensor technology, researchers see the potential to transform our approach to health care and wellness. But as UVA engineering professor John Lach points out, technological innovation won’t get us there alone; knowledge of human behavior is integral.

“If it’s just a bunch of engineers trying to solve a technical problem, it won’t be successful,” he says. “Behavior is such a critical component of health and wellness and something that we are just beginning to understand—and we need to understand those factors before we can begin to figure out how to help.”

Read the story in Virginia magazine.

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