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Never Miss Your Medicine Again with These Smart Wireless Earbuds

Elderly man taking medicine
Elderly man taking medicine

Forgetting to take your daily medication should be a thing of the past thanks to Medbuds – a newly developed wireless in-ear monitoring system that keeps track of every pill you take.

Wireless earbuds may soon strengthen the monitoring of a patient’s overall medication adherence through MedBuds, a smart system that tracks in-ear movement as a sign of a pill being taken, presented at the 2022 2nd International Workshop on Cyber-Physical-Human System Design and Implementation (CPHS)

The paper entitled “MedBuds: In-Ear Inertial Medication Taking Detection Using Smart Wireless Earbuds” details a proposal to use earbuds as embedded inertial measurement unit (IMU) with a pairing device, such as a smartphone, as an innovative system for medication-taking activity detection.

According to a previous study by Dr. Terrence Blasche and Dr. Lars Osterberg, around 30%-50% of Americans do not take their prescribed daily medications.

That’s why, the Medbuds is developed by a group of inter-university researchers: Murtadha Aldeer, Christian Brito, Tahiya Chowdhury, Richard P. Martin, and Jorge Ortiz of Rutgers University, Quan Z. Sheng and David Waterworth of Macquarie University, and Zawar Hussain of UNSW, to help address the healthcare industry’s ongoing difficulties with patients who fail to take medication on schedule.

How Medbuds Can Help with Medicine Adherence

The eSense platform and tracking app
The eSense platform and tracking app

Built upon the eSense platform, an earbud designed to enable automatic tracking of a set of head and mouth-related activities, including eating, drinking, and speaking, the MedBuds wireless earbuds contain embedded motion and audio sensors – accelerator, gyroscope, and microphone – that collect data from the user.

Using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) radio, these are transmitted to a paired smartphone.

By using these smart wireless earbuds with inertial measurement units (IMUs), the MedBuds system can track distinct jaw movements during swallowing and distinguish them from other non-swallowing activities to confirm if a medicine has been ingested.

The data collected from the earbuds following medication-taking action are transmitted through Bluetooth to a smartphone for initial processing of the activity detected, such as taking a sip of water, swallowing and drinking, and saliva-swallowing. Further analysis can be conducted on a computer to distinguish these from non-swallowing activities, such as chewing and speaking.

Results from the study show that MedBuds are capable of determining medication-taking activities with more than 84% accuracy.

Accuracy rate of Medbuds as shown in Graph
Accuracy rate of Medbuds as shown in Graph

The Future of MedBuds

As part of their recommendations, the researchers suggest pairing this with a smart pill bottle to set up a two-step verification system for detecting when a pill bottle is opened, who opened it, and when a pill is consumed using the earbuds’ sensors.

However, Medbuds is still in its preliminary stages and the paper lays out key recommendations for future work.

While not yet available to the public and pending full development, MedBuds aims to play its part in the suite of technology-based solutions for medication adherence monitoring. It joins other already existing technologies including smart pill bottles, wearables sensors, computer vision, and proximity sensing.

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