July 24, 2003 5:04 PM PDT

Intel to aid Alzheimer's research

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Continuing its push into health care, Intel on Thursday said it is teaming up with the Alzheimer's Association to spur development of technologies to help people with the disease.

The chip giant and the advocacy group have formed a consortium dubbed "Everyday Technologies for Alzheimer Care," which will focus on advancing technologies for the home. The joint organization plans to fund more than $1 million in research to develop new models of Alzheimer care based on technologies in computing, communications and home health care.

"The formation of this consortium is the first of its kind between a leader in Alzheimer research and a leader in the computing technology industry," said William Thies, vice president of scientific affairs for the Alzheimer's Association. "It is our hope that, through this effort, we will improve the quality of life for millions of people with Alzheimer's disease, their families, friends and professional health care partners."

The Alzheimer's Association will manage the consortium, which will fund projects in areas such as compensating for functional impairments and postponing placement in residential care settings. Intel and the association said they will invite other organizations and technology companies to join the consortium and help fund the research.

Intel has already been conducting research on how to care for senior citizens through its Proactive Health research group. The company is building prototypes such as a wireless "sensor network" made up of thousands of small sensing devices that could be embedded in a home to monitor a person's behavioral patterns and location, as well as send prompts to a person such as reminders to take medication. According to Intel, the data collected by the sensor network could help detect and prevent dementia or other medical conditions, as well as help a caregiver locate a patient in need.

Health care for the elderly is likely to be a booming market in coming years, partly because baby boomers are heading into their retirement years. There are currently 4 million Americans living with Alzheimer's, according to the association.

Intel got into the senior care partly by accident. In 2001, the company was looking at how consumers might use digital entertainment in new ways, such as by viewing the same TV show as someone else at a distant location while sharing an audio chat link over a broadband connection. Intel found that some research subjects were more interested in getting help taking care of parents living at a distance.

"We started out looking at digital entertainment," said Eric Dishman, manager of Intel's Proactive Health research. "We ended up studying dementia."

 

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