Michael J. Fox Foundation taps Intel's big data, wearables for Parkinson's research

The project marks a much more specific use case of employing wearables and big data for the healthcare industry.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

Wearable technology is routinely being batted around these days as the cure-all for everyday health tracking gaps, but Intel's latest venture is taking that potential to a whole new level.

The Michael J. Fox Foundation has tapped the tech giant for a collaboration with the goal of improving the monitoring and treatment of Parkinson's disease.

Announced on Wednesday, the multi-phase research study will launch from a new Intel-built big data analytics platform designed to detect patterns in participant data collected from wearables intended to monitor symptoms.

Intel is making good on its major investment in open source software platform Cloudera earlier this year, deploying Cloudera CDH on a cloud infrastructure based on Intel architectures. The chip maker plans to repurpose this platform for other health-related data projects in the future, such as hosting patient, genome and clinical trial data.

Todd Sherer, PhD and CEO of The Michael J. Fox Foundation, posited in the announcement that big data and wearables "hold the potential to transform our ability to capture and objectively measure patients' actual experience of disease, with unprecedented implications for Parkinson's drug development, diagnosis and treatment."

The project has already taken off as the duo commenced on a study earlier this year to first evaluate the usability and accuracy of these wearables. The test pool consisted of 16 Parkinson's patients and nine control volunteers, who wore the devices during two clinic visits and at home continuously over four days.

Currently, Intel data scientists are lining up and analyzing that data while developing algorithms intended to measure symptoms and disease progression.

The next phase later this year will consist of a new mobile app for patients, who can then record their medication intake, symptoms, and feelings routinely. This will be correlated with data coming in from the sensors on the wearables devices.

The project marks a much more specific use case of employing wearables and big data for the healthcare industry.

More recent announcements from the likes of Google and Samsung research and development departments, among others, are planning to tackle longer-term ailments. But so far, many of those projects have only shared details in regards to general medicine, wellness, and fitness.

Nevertheless, the influence and deployment of big data, sensors, and wearables for healthcare are only expected to grow at this point.

Apple, for instance, is widely expected to follow suit with its own long-awaited digital health platform, dubbed "HealthKit," in partnership with some of the country's top healthcare professionals and establishments, such as Mount Sinai, the Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins, and Allscripts, a provider of electronic health records.

For a closer look at the Intel-MJFF collaboration, check out the promo video below:

Image via Intel

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