Movement disorders are becoming one of the leading causes of functional disability due to aging populations and extended life expectancy. Diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation currently depend on the behavior observed in a clinical environment. After the patient leaves the clinic, there is no standard approach to continuously monitor the patient and report potential problems. Furthermore, self-recording is inconvenient and unreliable. To address these challenges, wearable health monitoring is emerging as an effective way to augment clinical care for movement disorders.
Wearable devices are being used in many health, fitness, and activity monitoring applications. However, their widespread adoption has been hindered by several adaptation and technical challenges. First, conventional rigid devices are uncomfortable to wear for long periods. Second, wearable devices must operate under very low-energy budgets due to their small battery capacities. Small batteries create a need for frequent recharging, which in turn leads users to stop using them. Third, the usefulness of wearable devices must be demonstrated through high impact applications such that users can get value out of them.
This dissertation presents solutions to solving the challenges faced by wearable devices. First, it presents an open-source hardware/software platform for wearable health monitoring. The proposed platform uses flexible hybrid electronics to enable devices that conform to the shape of the user’s body. Second, it proposes an algorithm to enable recharge-free operation of wearable devices that harvest energy from the environment. The proposed solution maximizes the performance of the wearable device under minimum energy constraints. The results of the proposed algorithm are, on average, within 3% of the optimal solution computed offline. Third, a comprehensive framework for human activity recognition (HAR), one of the first steps towards a solution for movement disorders is presented. It starts with an online learning framework for HAR. Experiments on a low power IoT device (TI-CC2650 MCU) with twenty-two users show 95% accuracy in identifying seven activities and their transitions with less than 12.5 mW power consumption. The online learning framework is accompanied by a transfer learning approach for HAR that determines the number of neural network layers to transfer among uses to enable efficient online learning. Next, a technique to co-optimize the accuracy and active time of wearable applications by utilizing multiple design points with different energy-accuracy trade-offs is presented. The proposed technique switches between the design points at runtime to maximize a generalized objective function under tight harvested energy budget constraints. Finally, we present the first ultra-low-energy hardware accelerator that makes it practical to perform HAR on energy harvested from wearable devices. The accelerator consumes 22.4 microjoules per operation using a commercial 65 nm technology. In summary, the solutions presented in this dissertation can enable the wider adoption of wearable devices.
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