The SAPHE Project

SAPHE: Smart and Aware Pervasive Healthcare Environments

The SAPHE project team is developing a new generation of telecare networks with miniaturised wireless sensors worn on the body and  integrated into homes, offices and hospitals to allow for continuous healthcare monitoring.
Key benefits of the SAPHE approach
  • continuous monitoring of the well-being of patients and vulnerable people
  • unobtrusive sensors worn on the body and incorporated into homes, hospitals and the wider community
  • early warning of emergency situations and long-term health problems



‘Telecare’ involves using computer and communications technology to deliver health and social care to people within their home or in the wider community. It involves the use of advanced monitoring equipment to deliver warnings of emergencies or changes in the condition of a patient or vulnerable person. The aim of the SAPHE (Smart and Aware Pervasive Healthcare Environments) project is to develop a new generation of telecare networks with miniaturised wireless sensors worn on the body and integrated into the environment (homes, offices, hospitals etc) to allow for intelligent, unobtrusive yet continuous healthcare monitoring.
It offers a breakthrough in the delivery of health and social care to patients and vulnerable people, while significantly reducing the costs of delivering care. Patients will benefit from easy to wear sensing equipment which gives them reassurance that their condition is being monitored, so that diseases or illness can be detected before they become critical or life threatening.
Intelligent ambient sensing can ultimately replace existing home security and monitoring devices, with significant cost benefit. Patients will also be more likely to co-operate with the monitoring programme because the sensing equipment is unobtrusive. For health and care providers, early detection means better-informed care activities and improved resource management.


The SAPHE Team

Imperial College is the lead partner in the project, which also involves BT, Philips, Cardionetics and Docobo, as well as the University of Dundee.
The project started in March 2006 and runs to February 2009. The total project cost is £3,676,898 with £1,650,248 provided by the DTI through the Technology Programme, now the Technology Strategy Board.
Professor Guang-Zhong Yang, principal project investigator from Imperial College, London, says: “The next great challenge for monitoring devices lies in their ability to monitor a patient’s physical and biochemical parameters continuously, under natural conditions and in any environment. The development of wireless sensor networks, using ambient and on-body monitors offers a platform to establish such a health monitoring system. It has the potential to help maintain the independence and support the well-being of a growing number of vulnerable individuals living alone.”
Nigel Barnes of BT adds: “BT has a long track record in collaborative R&D which it sees as a valuable part of its research programme. Following the success of the Care in the Community projects, that BT led under the DTI Next Wave Technologies and Markets programme, we were very keen to build upon that work under SAPHE which we believe can help BT deliver significant new business opportunities in the future.”



The use of preventative care and effective chronic disease management to reduce dependence on health and social care services is a national priority. Treating patients with chronic diseases in a community setting or at home will result in improved patient well-being, lower demand for healthcare, and more effective use of resources.
The purpose of SAPHE is to develop and trial new sensing technologies to detect emergency situations and changes in well-being.
The new systems will monitor physical activity (such as sleep patterns, gait etc) and physiology (such as heart rate, weight, blood glucose etc).



There are three main parts to the architecture of SAPHE: ambient sensing, wearable sensing, and systems to deliver the information to decision makers, such as doctors.
Ambient sensing captures information such as activity index, sleeping pattern, room occupancy, and gait and posture changes. SAPHE will use a variety of non-invasive sensors throughout the home to provide continual activity and environmental monitoring of the individual.
Wearable sensing provides patient-specific monitoring of key physiological information, such as respiration, peak expiratory flow and oxygen saturation for an asthma patient, for example.
The information gathered by the sensors needs to be communicated to care providers so they can make the right decisions. To achieve this, SAPHE will combine the use of a home gateway and, for patients on the move, a portable device such as a PDA or mobile phone. The gateway devices connect to remote data servers and existing healthcare ICT.



At the start of the project, the focus has been on defining the end-user and service requirements for the SAPHE architecture, and investigating the technological specifications for generic ultra low-power wireless sensor platforms. The project consortium is collaborating to work towards the enhancement of existing sensor technologies.
A steering committee comprised of members from: Department of Health, Philips Medical, BT Global Health, the Strategic Commissioning Partnership and the DTI has been formed to provide strategic guidance for the implementation and practical deployment of the SAPHE system.
A dedicated test bed has been created, which includes a homecare environment and simulated hospital ward. The next 12 months will see the project focus on the integration of wireless sensor technologies, automated trust-based decision support, and the development of software architectures.
The project has received all the necessary approvals for a 20 user trial of the SAPHE Technology.  This trial, which is due to start in November 2008 and last for around six months, is being undertaken in close collaboration with Liverpool PCT.  It is designed to explore how this technology can support teams delivering care in the community to patients with chronic conditions.


Project contacts

Principal Investigator:
Professor Guang-Zhong Yang: Director of Research Institute of Biomedical Engineering Imperial College, South Kensington London SW7 2AZ
For general enquiries:
Oliver Wells: Project Manager - Tel: 0207 594 8259; Email: o.wells@imperial.ac.uk Web: www.saphe.info


Technology Strategy Board

The Technology Strategy Board is a business-led executive non-departmental public body, established by the government. Its role is to promote and support research into, and development and exploitation of, technology and innovation for the benefit of UK business, in order to increase economic growth and improve the quality of life. It is sponsored by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS). For more information please visit www.innovateuk.org
The Technology Strategy Board’s Collaborative Research and Development Programme is investing directly in new and emerging technologies and has been designed to help businesses work with each other or with academic partners to develop technologies that will underpin products and services of the future. Since 2004, the programme has supported about 700 projects across 40 technology areas with a combined business and government investment worth over £1 billion.

SAPHE End of Project Event - 28 May 09

Held on 28th May 2009 at Philips Research Centre, Cambridge Science Park

SAPHE has been pioneering the application of pervasive computing for Telecare and Telehealth applications.  This was an opportunity to meet with the SAPHE Project team at the end of the project to see the results of their work and to discuss the challenges and opportunities these have revealed.
The event was held on 28th May in Philips Research offices in Cambridge Research Park. 
Morning Presentations – Philips Research Lecture Theatre
Lunch and SAPHE demonstrations
Breakout groups (5 breakout groups)
“Barriers – business models; functionality; users acceptability and awareness”
Plenary and discussion with panel: Michael Dillon, NHS Technology Office; Graham Worsley, TSB ALIP Programme; Jackie Marshall-Cyrus, TSB ALIP Programme; Prof Guang-Zhong Yang; (Oliver Wells (facilitating)
For more information on the SAPHE Project, please look at the SAPHE website

Tomorrow’s Wireless World: Ofcom report on future communications technology
May 7, 2008 - OfCom report released focusing on the future of wireless healthcare technologies in the delivery of care >>>
Link to BBC Technology coverage >>>
Link to OfCom Release >>>