IEEE-International Conference on Recent Trends in Information Technology, ICRTIT 2011 MIT, Anna University, Chennai.

June 3-5, 2011

Technology Centric Views for Biomedical Applications
(short version; extended paper can be obtained from author)

V Lakshmi Narasimhan
Professor, Department of Computer Science East Carolina University, Greenville, NC 27858, USA Email: Webpage:

ABSTRACT Embedded systems, computer and communication technologies have changed the medical field quite remarkably and will continue to change considerably in the future to come. This paper provides an overview of such technologies to various biomedical applications including the creation of various silicon-based human body parts. The impact of these technologies on the society is vivid and poses several ethical questions also, as exemplified by the Hollywood movie, The Bicentennial Man, an adaptation of Issac Asimov’s science fiction. Keywords: Biomedical applications, Embedded systems, Medical technologies, Communication mechanisms and, Silicon human parts. 1. INTRODUCTION


Providing proper patient care is currently one of the daunting issues (addressing the global economic slump is another one) that face all Western governments. With the advent of computers, embedded systems, sensor networks and the Internet has changed the process of seeking, sourcing, managing and exploiting health data assets by leaps and bounds. In this paper, I explore the deployment and use of technology for various aspects and stages of patient care. We also look into futuristic technologies that will impact on patient care – on both physical to mental aspects. The use of a wide variety of information management processes, decision support systems, digital asset management techniques and open source intelligence will also be elaborated. The next deals with some aspects of the computerizing the human body – from toe to head, followed by future projections of technologies for patient care. It is alluded that the replacement of the human carbon body with silicon parts (or creating a silicon body) – in congruence with the science fiction move The Bicentennial Man - is not too far away from reality.

Fig.2: Computerizing the Human Body We will now see the applications of computers and IT to various biomedical applications, while covering various parts of the human body – from toe to head (Fig.2). However, due to space restrictions, only a few issues are discussed hereunder; the full paper may be obtained from the author. The Human Feet: Pneumatic and powered footwear have now been designed [9] so that the patient can walk without falling (the footwear provide automatic stabilization) and without much effort (Fig.3). Active and proactive prosthetics, such as pneumatic operated prosthetics and pressurized physical aids have also been devised.These aids can mimic human feet’s preparation, positioning, weight balance and other issues prior to and during walking [9]. Special shoes with springs have been designed to help sprinters (who use their toes), long distance runner (who use their heel and feet) and those who have other problems with their feet [10]. These have considerably helped patients lead a normal life.

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positioning. which can send a variety of signals to all relevant parts of the body. such as pneumatic operated prosthetics and pressurized physical aids have been devised (Fig. muscles. Artificial heart cells – which actually throb – have been developed at Carnegie Mellon University. volume. etc have been developed and integrated with actual patients. These “silicon devices” are integrated with human – carbon entities such as nerves.5) [12] [13]. sensors that mimic “nerve-endings” and also transmit/receive signals about the nature of skin.4: Artificial Human Prosthetic Leg with Built-in Sensors The Human Legs: Active and proactive prosthetics. volume. The Human Heart: Artificial hearts are now available. including the brain (Fig.4) [11]. weight. weight balance and other issues while walking or running. Prosthetics with “feelings” – namely. frigidity. etc. These aids can 1326 . Fig. The artificial heart can also correct blood flow problems through adjustable arrhythmia (heart beats) and pressures [16].8).5: Artificial Knee Cap The Human Kneecap: Normal kneecaps are made of metal alloys that are unintelligent.3: Artificial Human Feet Fig.IEEE-ICRTIT 2011 mimic human feet preparation. Modern kneecaps are prosthetics with “feelings” – namely. etc in order to provide a seamless set of operations (Fig. which have been created from Stem cells – all from the First Principles [17]. weight. sensors that mimic “nerve-endings” that also transmit/receive signals about the nature of skin. Fig. frigidity.

sandals. happiness. but also several types of protections. The outer ear is now made with polymers so that those who lost the outer ear can now focus the sound better into the inner ear [27]. handbags. one can choose their skin color by simply changing the set-up within the embedded computer! Perhaps women can choose not only the color of their sarees. Taking clue from the fact that an ant can carry 10 times its weight and walk comfortably. their FM performance has become much better than before (Fig. send-off.12) [22]. a bowling ball and a balloon filled with water! (this has been developed at the Army Research Lab. sensing of weights and to a limited extent sensing of texture and rigidity have been artificially achieved – to the extent an Iraqi war injured (who lost a hand) can now juggle an egg. muscles. Cochlear implants have significantly improved the lives of the born-deaf and other hearing impaired people [28]. appreciation (clapping). Washington DC [19]).Technology Centric Views for Biomedical Applications Fig.10: Artificial Human Hand and Fingers The Human Skin: The human skin offers not only sensation.12: Artificial Human Skin The Human Ear – Cochlear Implants: Several aspects of the human ear has now been artificially created. but also their skin color too to fit the particular occasion! Fig. besides beautifying the body overall.10) [18]. These gestures can also be integrated with emotions such as.16).9: Artificial Human Heart The Human Hand & Fingers: Almost all movements of the human fingers and hands can be artificially created using a variety of embeddedsystems enabled prosthetics (containing several miniature motors) (Fig. etc. bindies. Even nerve functions. Fig. Cochlear implants have not only become smaller. special prosthetics have been developed to help normal people lift more than their weight and walk (or transfer weights). When ultimately successful. Replacing the human skin with nanotechnology-based fiber-spun clothing would be the first step and limited efforts have been made in this direction (Fig. The ear – in particular the cochlea – plays an important role in maintaining a sense of 1327 .

17 & 18) [29]. 1328 . Also the density of the rods and cones is not uniform – it is high around the middle of the eye and decreases around the corner of the eyes (Fig. The system has video cameras. Further serious issues include the lack of security. optical fibre and interconnections to the human optical nerve! Fig. But the human brain has evolved to see 200 shades of a given color and human sensors are the ones which limit our seeing! Are you now prepared to replace your eyes with artificial ones? Fig.000 Hz. loss of data and privacy.18b: Architecture of Artificial Eye Sensor Networks for Patient Care: Intelligent sensors can now be embedded inside human body which can communicate with existing communication networks. which is somewhat difficult to achieve now with an artificial ear. actual connectivity problems. choice of the right protocol for the given environment. 18: Artificial Human Eye Jens Naumann in The Early Show of CBS on his Brain computer interface (BCI) for vision (CBS Photo – Wired Magazine. The human eye can only process limited shades of any given color – due to limited number of rods and cones in the cornea. but the human brain has evolved to hear ultrasound and human sensors are the ones which limit our hearing! Fig.16: Artificial Human Cochlea The Human Eye: The human lens has limited accommodation power. Sept 2002). whereas a camera’s accommodative power can be programmed. However.IEEE-ICRTIT 2011 balance. electromagnetic interference and other types of interferences. The US Army Research Lab [19] is experimenting with human sensor networks. patient health. The human ear can only process signals from 20-20.

medical emergency and the like. 16. INDICATIVE BIBLIOGRAPHY (complete reference list is provided in the full paper).com/imgres?imgurl=http://www. http://nerdapproved. All websites accessed on 14th March 2011. the advantages of using such networked devices include the following: Since sensor networks offer connectivity.26) [50] is strongly recommended for viewing.. “Artificial Kneecap”. http://www. http://www. called The Bicentennial Man ( er8.1. psychologists and psychiatrists say that the human thought processes are fairy complex to articulate. 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