Future Of Health: Tracking Matters

Future Of Health: Tracking Matters

Low cost sensors along with existing mobile and web-based platforms allow any object to broadcast information that can provide both positional and conditional insights, resulting in greater accountability and understanding.

Kyle Studstill
  • 2 august 2010

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This post is part of a PSFK Consulting project aimed at providing insight into the Future of Health. Tracking Matters is one trend of fifteen that appears in our exploration of  how technology and access to information play a vital role in the ways that people will understand, manage and receive care whether that’s at home, in hospitals and clinics or in doctor’s offices.


The availability of low cost sensors and other digital technologies to collect and broadcast data is enabling virtually any object—from people to packages—to be tracked and monitored. Existing mobile and web-based platforms can offer almost real-time access to information that can provide both positional and conditional insights, resulting in greater accountability and understanding.


  • Position and Condition – Medicine and vital supplies can be tracked more accurately and easily to ensure they arrive untampered and in good condition.
  • Targeted Updates – Triggered events can send out alerts to appropriate personnel.
  • Automated Inventory – Inventory survey times can be shortened by requesting objects to check-into systems.
  • Continuous Monitoring – Patients with chronic diseases can be monitored more easily and receive ongoing care.
  • Increased accountability – Personnel can be monitored to ensure attendance and delivery of services.

Supporting Examples for Tracking Matters

Tracking Matters 01

Sensors Provide Complete Monitoring Of Medical Deliveries
Senseaware is a FedEx-powered service that uses comprehensive sensor technology for web-based monitoring of packages. Packages equipped with Senseaware deliver real-time information about location, temperature and lighting, and other environmental cues, helping ensure that critical medical supplies and other sensitive materials are received in the proper condition.

Tracking Matters 02

RFID To Track Patients And Records In Hospitals
China-based Daily RFID’s single-use tracking kit is designed to be used for hospital patient management tasks such as patient monitoring, medication records, and tracing of newborn babies in hospital settings. The RFID-enabled, wristband-based kit gives physicians and medical staff an easy way to immediately identify a patient and their medical record with a WiFi-enabled PDA hand-held reader, while simultaneously updating the system with current information.

Tracking Matters 03

Using Smell To Detect Spoilage
GE is developing sensors that combine RFID tracking with an acute gas sensing capability, which can detect the presence of distinct chemical compounds in the air. When attached to food products, these sensors periodically check for spoilage, alerting consumers either through an intelligent label or by wireless notification.

Tracking Matters 04

Smart Labels Help Patients Take Pills
Patients that opt into the eMedonline system are given a cellphone equipped with an RFID reader and pill bottles with RFID labels. A mobile app that runs on the phone schedules their medication and alerts patients at appropriate times, explaining what they should take and what it is for, while providing a walkthrough succession of steps for more elderly users.

Tracking Matters 05

Using RFID For Accountability In Educational Institutions
Northern Arizona University is working to implement a system for using RFID proximity card readers to automatically take attendance in its classes, with an aim to increase attendance and student performance. The system calls for embedding RFID into the personal cards of each student in an effort to monitor their whereabouts on campus.

Tracking Matters 06

GPS Enabled Tracking Of City Resources
Trash Track is a project by the SENSEable City Lab at MIT that aims to help residents see the path of trash after it leaves their homes. By placing RFID tags on trash and following its path with both cellular triangulation and GPS, it allows users to view the path of their trash on a map. The project also hopes to give residents a better understanding of the “removal chain” process and their impact on the environment.

About PSFK’s Future Of Health Report


PSFK’s Future of Health Report details 15 trends that will impact health and wellness around the world. Simple advances such as off-the-grid energy and the introduction of gaming into healthcare service offerings sit alongside more future-forward developments such as bio-medical printing. The report includes concepts for UNICEF based on the trends provided by the world’s leading advertising and design agencies. It is our hope that this report will inspire your thinking and lead to services, applications and technologies which will allow for more available, quality healthcare.


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