UNSW researchers aim to secure smartwatches for e-health

Australian Research Council awards $322,800 grant for three-year project

Fitbit watches could be used for e-health if properly secured, say UNSW researchers.

Fitbit watches could be used for e-health if properly secured, say UNSW researchers.

Researchers at the University of New South Wales have been awarded a $322,800 grant to conduct research into boosting the security of wearable technology.

The UNSW engineers received a three-year Discovery grant from the Australian Research Council (ARC) for a project that will commence in 2015.

The researchers hope to develop technology that can be incorporated by device makers into popular wearable fitness devices like Fitbit and smartwatches from Google and Apple. The technology would make these devices secure and trusted enough to feed their data into mainstream health systems, a UNSW statement said.

If properly secured, wearable technology could allow doctors to remotely monitor the health of patients in their homes and provide greater detail about a patient’s health to improve diagnosis, according to the UNSW researchers.

“Healthcare costs are ballooning in much of the western world, increasing the burden on primary care delivery, and exacerbating the occurrence of acute events requiring hospital care,” said associate professor Vijay Sivaraman from the UNSW School of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications.

“A significant opportunity exists to curtail these growing demands on our healthcare system by engaging patients in at-home medical management using emerging wireless sensor technology. “Secure, non-intrusive medical monitoring can offer quality-of-life for millions of patients with chronic conditions or age-related illnesses, while providing critical data for healthcare providers at dramatically reduced cost.”

While wearable devices are promising for e-health, security is a critical problem to be solved before they can be connected to healthcare systems, said professor Sanjay Jha, director of the Cyber Security and Privacy (CySPri) Laboratory at the UNSW School of Computer Science and Engineering.

“If healthcare professionals and medical insurers are to trust the data coming from wearable devices, they also need to be confident that the provenance, namely the context – the person, time and place associated with the data – is genuine, that the device integrity has not been compromised by malware, and that the data has not been tampered in transit or storage,” he said.

“The outcome of this project is expected to be the development and demonstration of ultra-lightweight algorithms and mechanisms that execute in wearable devices to safeguard the integrity of the data.”

Adam Bender covers telco and enterprise tech issues for Computerworld and is the author of dystopian sci-fi novels We, The Watched and Divided We Fall. Follow him on Twitter: @WatchAdam

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia

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Tags e-healthresearchunswtelehealthAustralian Research Council (ARC)wearable devicesWearable Techwearablesmartwatchesfitness bands

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