A major complication from diabetes is necrosis in the extremities. Basically, the poor circulation associated with diabetes can cause a bit of the human body to slowly die off. But a group of students hope to curb all that thanks to a temperature-sensing "smart mat" they have developed.
The device comes courtesy of a senior design project from a group of four engineering students at Jackson State University in Jackson, Miss. The purpose of the senior projects — of which the mat is only one — is to find theoretical solutions to very real problems. One of the students behind the mat, Jann Butler, has an aunt whose diabetes-related ulcers led to an amputation, and that’s what spurred the team to work on diabetes.
“Upon research, we realized that a lot of them suffer foot ulcers,” JSU quotes Butler as saying, “and we uncovered an issue with temperature. So, we developed a mat that diabetic patients could stand on to register the temperature of their feet. If there’s a four-degree difference between the two over a period of time, the lower one would be at greater risk of ulceration.”
Essentially, the idea is that the lower temperature is a strong indication of poor blood circulation in that foot. Another complication of diabetes is neuropathy, where the nerves in those extremities die, and that loss of feeling means that this temperature decrease and even the necrotic ulcers aren’t felt in the same way as they might be in a person without neuropathy. Early warning on a possible circulation problem could help prevent an ulceration, noted Gordon Skelton, their professor.
The mat is basically a glorified set of sensors — one for each foot — that reports the data to an Android app. It’s unclear what might happen if both feet are experiencing poor circulation, as the data from one foot is compared with the other and that’s how it makes the judgment. Another problem the group’s had to overcome? Wet feet. The moisture initially caused inaccurate readings, though they’ve since switched to a more waterproof sensor.
The group still has to make the tracking app compatible with other mobile devices, and the professor and team members members are discussing modifications and the feasibility of placing the product, which cost about $500 to develop, on the market.
Photo: Pedro Ribeiro Simões | Flickr