The three-year project, called DAPHNE, comes at a time when over two in three adults and one in three children in some EU countries are overweight. The multi-centre collaboration involves ten universities and technology companies, with a total budget of €4.9m, of which the EU has contributed nearly €3.5m.
New generation of sensors
The project will use a new generation of sensors to detect how much energy a person expends - including how much time they have been sitting still, walking, standing, doing housework, etc - and can monitor their overall fitness.
The data will be analysed using information mining and intelligent heuristics to recognise behavioural patterns and see how successfully an individual is making changes to their lifestyle.
With mobile phone apps and other devices, individuals can be advised on further changes they can make, improving physical fitness and reducing the risk of weight-related diseases.
Businesses and researchers cooperate
The DAPHNE project is being led by the Spanish health technology company Treelogic SL, in partnership with major IT companies IBM, Atos, Nevet, Evalan and SilverCloud. These businesses will work alongside researchers at the University of Leeds, the University of Madrid and the Children’s Hospital in Rome. Also a professional society, the International Association for the Study of Obesity, is involved.
Project coordinator, Dr Alberto Olmo of Treelogic SL, said: "We know that thousands of people across Europe want to get fit and stay fit. There are now a number of sophisticated technological methods to help them achieve their goals. The DAPHNE research project is a unique opportunity to develop industry standardised approaches to help health and fitness, and to make sure we work together to develop the services people need."
The project will undertake three major areas of work. Next to developing monitoring sensors and communicating data using smartphones, the second is developing information analysis platforms to receive the data using cloud storage, process the data and send it to the individual concerned, as well as other end-users such as health services and fitness centres.
The third area of work is to consider how the collected data should be distributed but at the same time be protected to ensure it is processed ethically.
Technology to strengthen motivation
"European health services are facing a rising tide of obesity related disease, including diabetes and heart disease", said Dr Tim Lobstein, Policy Director at the International Association for the Study of Obesity. "It can be a struggle for individuals to change their lifestyles, so technology that can strengthen motivation and show personal progress could provide a useful tool and needs to be explored. We welcome this opportunity to help people to manage their weight and to improve their fitness, reducing the need for drugs or surgery."