WiGait Health Tracking is a wireless device created by scientists at MIT to help monitor walking speed. Find out how it works today in our review.
What Is WiGait Health Tracking?
WiGait is a new system just announced by scientists at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL).
The device tracks personal health in a different way than conventional fitness devices. Other devices track health by tracking your blood pressure, breathing, pulse, and body temperature. Researchers at MIT, however, discovered that walking speed was also a major vital sign to take into consideration when analyzing someone’s health.
There’s one problem with using walking speed to track someone’s health: it’s difficult to accurately monitor someone’s walking speed in an unobtrusive and continuous way. The team, led by Professor Dina Katabi, created a wireless device that solves this problem. WiGait is that wireless device.
How Does The WiGait Health Tracking System Work?
WiGait is a wireless device that, in tests, was able to measure the walking speed of participants with 95 to 99% accuracy. The device relies on wireless signals.
Unlike other fitness devices on the market today, WiGait isn’t some trendy wearable. Instead, it’s a portrait-sized device that can be placed on the wall of your home. The device emits signals that have one-hundredth the amount of radiation of a typical cell phone.
Here’s how lead author and PhD student Chen-Yu Hsu described the technology:
“By using in-home sensors, we can see trends in how walking speed changes over longer periods of time. This can provide insight into whether someone should adjust their health regime, whether that’s doing physical therapy or altering their medications.”
WiGait looks like a Wi-Fi router without an antenna. You mount the router-like device on the wall. Then, it emits signals as someone walks through the room. The device analyzes how signals bounce off the individual’s body as they walk. WiGait then uses that information to determine speed.
WiGait also has 85 to 99% accuracy when measuring someone’s individual stride length. Researchers believe they can use the system to better diagnose conditions like Parkinson’s disease. One symptom of Parkinson’s disease is a reduced step size.
Why Not A Wearable?
Most people had no idea that walking speed was such a difficult metric to track. Today, however, walking speed is typically only measured by clinicians or physical therapists using a stopwatch. Meanwhile, wearable devices like a FitBit only provide a rough estimate of speed based on step count. GPS-enabled smartphones have similarly inaccurate measurements. Plus, they work poorly indoors.
When you’re diagnosing a medical condition, you can’t work with rough estimates. That’s why MIT researchers discovered a need to create a device like WiGait.
Benefits of WiGait Health Tracking
WiGait could help reveal valuable health information in certain at-risk groups – like the elderly.
One example is that WiGait could be used to detect a change in walking speed. That change in walking speed could indicate that the person has suffered an injury, or that the person has a higher risk of falling. In this situation, physicians could use WiGait to determine whether or not an individual needs an assisted-living home.
As mentioned above, a symptom of Parkinson’s is a reduced step size. WiGait could be used to track reduced step size. When compared to other symptoms, it could be used to make a more accurate Parkinson’s diagnosis.
What About Privacy?
Prior to WiGait, the best way to track walking speed was with cameras. Understandably, people are uneasy about cameras tracking their every movement inside their homes. That’s why WiGait works on a different system.
WiGait tracks wireless signals to analyze a person’s walking speed. After tracking someone’s speed, that individual is shown as nothing more than a moving dot on a screen. There are no cameras recording what you look like – it’s just a simple dot.
WiGait Health Tracking Pricing and Release Date
Researchers at MIT just published a paper discussing the technology. The paper did not explain any details about a potential consumer launch in the future. However, the technology could be used by nursing homes, care facilities, or individual consumers in the future.
We’ll keep you updated on when and if WiGait becomes available in the future. For now, the technology exists in a lab at MIT.