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Prof. Thomas presents WellCar Concept at U.S. House of Representatives event

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Center for Design Research Director Greg Thomas recently presented the WellCar concept at an “Internet of Things” showcase in Washington D.C. The U.S. House of Representative’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade hosted the event. The CDR is part of the KU Department of Design.

The bi-partisan gathering featured internet-connected devices that are in development or have been manufactured in representatives’ districts. Thomas appeared at the invitation of request of Kansas Fourth District Rep. Mike Pompeo.   

The Federal Trade Commission defines the Internet of Things as “the ability of everyday objects to connect to the Internet and to send and receive data,” and estimates that nearly 25 billion connected devices will be in commerce this year.

More and more “things” are now connected to the Internet, empowering consumers and providing a range of benefits. The subcommittee showcase featured items ranging from household appliances to automotive technologies and more.

“Basically, the WellCar is a doctor’s office on wheels,” said Thomas, a professor in the School of Architecture, Design and Planning. “That’s what makes this so exciting, especially for rural communities that don’t have health care access.”

The WellCar is a Ford Transit Connect van that has been equipped with numerous medical, and technology that allow it to connect to the Internet from almost anywhere.

The specialized communications devices have been developed and installed in the WellCar by Cornerstone Integration, and are manufactured by Intel.

The Internet connection is used to securely exchange data with hospitals and clinics eliminating the need for patients to travel. Ideally, diagnostics and prescriptions could be provided on the spot.

“What medical practitioners can do today with portable medical diagnostics tools are amazingly sophisticated,” continued Thomas, “but to be effective for use in rural locations they will rely on connectivity. Development of a secure system robust enough to perform the task needed has taken time, but it is necessary for the success of the project.”

“The WellCar was enthusiastically received at the showcase, and received a tremendous amount of interest from representatives of Georgia, Florida, Oklahoma, Nebraska and more,” he said.