healthcare

Sensors and Sensibility

By Vasu Kilaru

Around us every day are technologies that give us access to more information at our fingertips than any generation has ever had.  As an EPA scientist, I’m pretty thrilled about these innovations and what they mean for environmental protection.

One exciting new initiative in that realm here at EPA is called Apps and Sensors for Air Pollution or ASAP. This new aspect of our research came out of the recognition that the advances in sensor technologies are unfolding at the same amazing pace that we all see with new cellphone and smartphone technologies.

Cellphones already have a variety of sensors built in:  light sensors and proximity sensors to manage display brightness, accelerometers used as switches or to characterize motion, GPS to provide mapping and locational services, compass and gyroscope to provide direction and orientation, microphones for audio, and a camera for video/photography.

These capabilities have led to the logical coupling of other sensors, such as for air pollution monitoring or biometric measurements, with smartphones.

Traditionally, air monitoring technologies were costly to setup and maintain, and therefore the purview of governments (federal and state). Now, new miniaturized sensor technologies are approaching consumer budgets and have the advantage of being highly portable. These developments in sensor technology present an exciting new frontier where monitoring will be more democratized and available much more widely. Parallel to these developments are sensors that measure physiological conditions such as heart rate or blood oxygen levels.

Pairing environmental sensors with ones that measure biological conditions could herald a new era for both environmental protection as well as healthcare. Future developments in these sensor technologies ultimately have the capacity to help people make better decisions regarding their environment and their own health.

So we are excited to do our part in bring new technologies to you.  If you’re going to the World Maker Faire in New York this weekend (September 29-30), stop by our EPA booth, we’d love to talk about how DIYers, makers, inventors can help make a greener future.

About the Author: Vasu Kilaru works in EPA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD). He is currently working on the apps and sensors for air pollution initiative (ASAP) helping the Agency develop its strategic role and response to new sensor technology developments.


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Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Healthy Health Care Leader – Kaiser Permanente

One of my closest friends, Stephanie Davis, did pioneering work in the early days of green health care. As she battled cancer, we often laughed and cried about the unhealthy hospitals and medical practices she endured.

So I really appreciate Kaiser Permanente’s recognition that healthy communities and a healthy environment are critical to the health and wellness. Kaiser Permanente received an EPA Pacific Southwest Environmental Award for their green ways. Here are a few examples, Kaiser —

  • Recycled 100% (WOW –- 100%!) of the building materials generated during the demolition of two warehouses in San Leandro, California.
  • Opened a green medical center in Modesto, California, with solar panels, energy-conserving technology, permeable pavement, and safer materials.
  • Hosted 28 farmers markets at facilities in six states, delivered produce “farm boxes” to employees without close access to farmers markets, and served milk from cows not treated with artificial hormones.
  • Resold and recycled 74,000 pieces of electronic equipment and ensured that no hazardous e-waste was exported outside of the U.S.
  • Used 107,143 gallons of water per bed per year in California hospitals — 40% less than the average hospital water consumption nationally.
  • Telemonitored heart patients remotely to improve the quality of care and reduce car trips.

Kaiser Permanente has also worked on changing employee behavior. Their “Reduce Your Use” campaign that encouraged employees to reduce waste by providing tips on ways to be more environmentally responsible with specific participation goals. The campaign resulted in employee pledges that eliminated the use of over 240,000 sheets of paper and 20,000 disposable bags.

Kaiser is definitely leading the way on greening heath care. I wish Stephanie was able to see the great progress Kaiser has made to improve the health of the health care system. Do you have green health care ideas you’d like to share?

About the author: Timonie Hood has worked on EPA Region 9’s Resource Conservation Team promoting waste reduction, recycling, and green building for 10 years in EPA’s Pacific Southwest Office.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.