As a three year project,PAM worked to establish new technology to help people that suffer from Bipolar Disorder. The vision was to allow sufferers to find out more about their health and help them make healthy lifestyle choices. Using their mobile phones and discrete sensors, PAM attempts to detect mania and depression in patients early enough for them to avoid both full-blown episodes and hospital admissions.
The PAM project team endeavoured to allow sensors to automatically detect behaviour, define patient activity signatures, and combine this with mood diaries. Electronic mood diaries are already being used to help people with Bipolar Disorder understand their feelings and identify early symptoms of their disease, but PAM wants to see if they can be made more effective by adding activity signature information.
The PAM system wants to act as an objective helper for each person with Bipolar Disorder. The PAM approach is to report small changes in activities and moods, discovered from combining mood reports with information from wearable sensors and sensors placed in the local environment. The goal was to report discoveries in a friendly and helpful manner to help understand the illness and encourage important lifestyle decisions.
The P in PAM stands for Personalised and was an important aspect of the project. Bipolar Disorder affects everyone differently, and the amount of monitoring that each person will be comfortable with will be different too. The aim was that individuals could adjust the monitoring to suit their individual preferences, and the system adjusted to different stages of their conditions. Such flexibility provides technical challenges that the researchers largely overcame by programming wireless technology in a novel and flexible way. The accuracy of the approach can be improved by employing models and simulations developed using Operational Research.
The A in PAM stands for Ambient since the sensors must not get in the way. Small unobtrusive sensors were placed in homes and worn by test subjects. The volunteers will not need to do anything new; just get on with their normal lives. The project researchers are combining tiny computers with sensors and wireless radios to produce small standalone smart sensors that monitor patient behaviour independently. These small smart sensors monitored various effects - for example where the person is and how they are moving about. They performed this task independently and collectively using wireless technology and the volunteers' own mobile phones.
The PAM project was funded by a grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). The project's progress was driven by a steering committee consisting of clinicians, patients, and academic researchers. The academic researchers from the universities of Nottingham,Southampton,and Stirling developed the system and conducting the trial.