Using Wearable Technology to Prevent Kidney Stones

October 28, 2020

Electrical and computer engineering assistant professor Edison Thomaz is working with researchers from Penn State University and Stanford University on a project called sipIT, a technology-based intervention to promote fluid intake, increase urine output and reduce risk of kidney stones. The team recently received a five-year, $2.97 million grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases to further their technology.

SipIT combines mobile, wearable and connected technology to reduce the burden on users. A smartphone app, smartwatch and connected water bottle tracks users' fluid intake. SipIT is designed to promote habit formation so that, once people have used it for a period of time, they will continue to consume fluids even without using the sipIT tools.

Thomaz and his research group have developed a new algorithm that enables smartwatches to detect when someone drinks. They developed a method for fluid intake detection and optimized it to run in near real-time on a commodity smartwatch platform.

"Wearable technology is a breakthrough in the health sciences because it allows researchers to obtain objective measures of behavior and health states in naturalistic settings for the first time," Thomaz said. "Passive tracking of physical activities with smartwatches and Fitbit-style devices has already had a deep impact on our understanding of sedentary behaviors, mobility and even re-hospitalization risk for numerous health conditions."

The team includes David Conroy, professor of kinesiology and human development and family studies, and Necole Streeper, assistant professor of surgery, from Penn State University, as well as Nilam Ram, professor of communications and psychology at Stanford University.

"We have now moved toward the detection and characterization of more complex health behaviors such as dietary intake and drinking," Thomaz said. "It is very rewarding to form collaborations such as with my Penn State colleagues, and bring this work a step closer to impacting people's lives in such an important way."