ARO Wearables

Wearable Devices for Monitoring Social Networks


Funded by the Department of Army

This program involves collaborative work between the research groups of Professors John Rogers (Rogers Group), Noshir Contractor (Science of Networks in Communities, SONIC Group), and Leslie DeChurch (Advancing Teams Leadership and Systems, ATLAS Group), all of Northwestern University, and researchers at the Army Research Laboratory.

The Rogers Group will design, prototype, test and refine hardware and software aspects of classes of wireless sensors that capture physiological and social networking information. Their unique baseline capabilities are in soft, skin-interfaced devices that mount on the base of the suprasternal notch, as an optimal body location for capturing data streams of core interest to the proposed program. The technology takes the form of a ‘band-aid’ like device that supports wireless data communication, a wirelessly rechargeable battery and supporting electronics for high bandwidth tri-axis accelerometry. A thin, dual-sided, FDA approved adhesive bonds the device to the skin. The battery life is ~24 hours. Existing functionality allows for precision capture of mechano-acoustic signatures of underlying body processes, focused on measurements of vibratory patterns associated with speech, but with additional capabilities in physiological monitoring: heart rate, respiration rate, respiratory sounds, temperature, swallowing, cough, body orientation and activity (including steps). Automated algorithms for extracting these signatures from the cumulative data streams will also be provided, and refined/customized as necessary. Further enhancements include the addition of a microphone for measuring ambient acoustic information, an optoelectronic component for blood oxygenation and photoplethysmography and a LED/photodetector for measuring proximity to others in a social network. Supply chains and relationships to domestic, small-volume manufacturers will be established to allow production of tens to hundreds of devices to support scaled deployment for the program.

The SONIC and ATLAS Groups will use these devices to understand social networks that develop between collections of individuals in an organization.

The SONIC, ATLAS and Rogers groups will work closely to identify ways in which individuals can be instrumented in team contexts to collect and curate data on human actions and interactions. Data will be collected from individuals as they participate in a 12-member multi-team system simulation exercise called Project Red. The goal of the 60-minute exercise is to have 4 3-member teams to negotiate the optimal location to drill for water on Mars. The participants will be instrumented with the devices described above and they will also be recorded using high definition video and audio. The latter will be coded to validate the interaction patterns captured by the wearable devices. Feedback from the first simulation exercise will be used to iterate technical changes to the devices as well as make changes to the experimental design of Project Red to improve the fidelity of the data collected. We expect this iterative process to involve a total of four Project Red sessions.