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IBM works on AI to detect chronic diseases like Parkinson’s, diabetes

IBM is breaking into artificial intelligence (AI) and similar devices to innovate the extent of help on the health of people, as the whole world is aging population and prevalent chronic diseases.

The New York-based technology company is working with research partners on various connected devices, with use of sensors that are attached to the floor, chair or bed of patients, to further accurately detect diseases at an earlier stage than the usual, according to Norishige Morimoto, vice-president for research and development at IBM Japan.

“Chronic diseases like dementia are irreversible, so the only way to stop is to slow down the progress of the disease,” said Morimoto in an interview on Friday. “Because of the slow progression, those signs are very difficult to connect unless constantly monitored.”
The chronic diseases that are specifically being investigated by IBM include diabetes, Alzheimer’s, dementia and Parkinson’s.

That call of action comes as the demographic shift in age among a country’s population has moved faster in East Asia than any other region, according to statistical data from the World Bank.

IBM technologies being used for its research on chronic diseases are still in the development stage, the US company is still borrowing from some real-world and more advanced applications in the medical field. A vest that can be worn with metallic string woven into it to study muscle movements, for example, has been developed by IBM and Japanese smart fiber manufacturer Mitsufuji Corporation to detect the risk of heat stroke, especially for workers. This special vest is now being adapted to help detect symptoms of other diseases.
In China, AI has become the biggest application for health care, along with security and innovation. Mainly the Chinese companies from start-ups to technology giants are using the opportunity to apply more advanced solutions such as AI from machine reading of CT scans to processing and analyzing medical queries.

Last year, Baidu, China’s leading search engine moved to open-source AI technologies that can help pathologists detect breast cancer, while e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding, announced partnership and help with hospitals for developing smart diagnosis platforms.

To unleash the innovative potential of the AI for wider use, the technology should move from the current stage of “narrow AI”, in which the technology is designed to solve a problem at a time, to the next phase of “broad AI”, which provides the ability to more understand, to be nurtured and solve multiple tasks in various disciplines, more advanced to what human beings can do, according to IBM’s Morimoto.

The ability to feed quality data to the machine would be key to move to the next era, Morimoto said. “The important thing is how do you judge what is high-quality data,” he said. “If you have the wrong data mix, you will have a terrible AI.” – South China Morning Post.