NUI Galway Lecturer to Feature at Marconi Celebrations

Monday, 13 October 2008

The Marconi Weekend, which takes place in Clifden, Co. Galway, from 17-19 October, will feature a lecture by Dr Edward Jones of NUI Galway's Electronic Engineering Department. The weekend festival commemorates the first commercial wireless transatlantic broadcast by Guglielmo Marconi in 1907, and Dr Jones will speak about how Marconi's legacy is influencing new ways of providing healthcare. Most people associate Marconi with inventing 'the wireless', and he is most often credited with enabling wireless communication as we know it today. While this has clearly had a huge impact on how people interact with each other, most tangibly these days through mobile phones, his work has also enabled the development of many other applications in the world of healthcare. Electronic and wireless technology is starting to enable new ways for patients with various conditions to be remotely monitored by their doctor. Systems are being developed which involve sensors attached to the patient monitoring vital signs like blood sugar level or heart rate, and using wireless technology to allow information about the patient's state to be relayed to their GP, e.g. through text messaging. According to Dr Jones, whose lecture will be entitled 'More than just The Wireless': Marconi's Contribution to Healthcare': "These new systems will, for example, enable ongoing post-operative monitoring, thus reducing the need for patients to visit their doctor or hospital for post-operative check-ups. Another possibility is that these systems can aid in detecting problems in at-risk groups, such as elderly patients living alone, and can assist groups like diabetics in managing their own treatment". A second use of the technology is in the area of medical imaging, as an alternative to traditional imaging methods such as x-rays. Dr Jones, along with Dr Martin Glavin and a group of electronic engineering researchers, is working on new wireless imaging technology for breast cancer detection that could form an effective alternative to traditional x-ray mammography. The technology is a form of radar that forms an image of the tissue, where tumours may be easier to detect. Dr Jones points out that this research is in the first stages: "It's early days yet, and the group is currently trying to get some idea of how effective this technology would be in practice. Discussions have already been held with clinicians as to how useful something like this might be in a clinical setting, and what practical patient-related issues really need to be considered, and it will be a number of years before the technology could be used in a trial with real patients". This technology could provide another useful tool for clinicians to add to the range of techniques they use in cancer detection. Furthermore, this application illustrates how fundamental discoveries like Marconi's from one hundred years ago, can be fused with sophisticated modern electronic engineering techniques (such as digital signal processing and digital computers), to address significant problems in healthcare. Dr Jones will speak at 5pm on Saturday 18 October at the Marconi Weekend in Clifden, for further information visit http://www.clifdenchamber.ie/events.aspx?id=87
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