Peter van Manen: from car to care

TEDxNijmegen 2013 Photo: Mirella BootSay McLaren and you say Formula 1. Very fast cars, daredevils like Mika Häkkinen, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button. These Formula 1 racing cars may look tough, but they crave a lot of care and attention. They are more sensitive than a sleep deprived person with a bad hair day before their first cup of coffee, – much, much more sensitive.

F1 cars have hundreds of sensors to measure just about anything, and the data will be sent back to the garage by telemetry. The data is used to fix problems and make the car faster.

Measuring is not enough though. Raw data is nothing without someone to interpret them and turn them into knowledge.

But wait a moment. Wasn’t this TEDxNijmegen thing about health?

Well. Yes. Enter Birmingham Children’s Hospital. Here, it’s all about the kids. Kids who have crashed, or are about to crash, or who really oughtn’t crash again in order to survive. Peter van Manen, Managing Director of McLaren Electronics explains: in this hospital, data is collected like they are in Formula 1 racing. At the pediatric IC, the patients are just as sensitive as racing cars – more so, even. So many things can go wrong. But like racing cars, patients can provide lots of data on which to act. These data can be used to prevent, to solve problems and to make things better. If you know what is normal for a child, and see how different that is from what is actually happening, you can prevent disasters from happening. Interpret the data right, and you can prevent heart attacks, for instance. Combined with the early warning system the hospital was already using. The F1-system saved lives.

But if this approach is successful, why not use it outside hospitals? Think big, think smart: and here is where cars come in again – the ambulance, actually. Use the sensors there, and you can turn the ambulance into an extra IC bed. Store the data, interpret them, and tease out patterns. Like collected and correctly interpreted data can prevent a sleek racing car from crashing, it can help children survive.

Which is great, because then you can take it to the race track.

A live blog by Marije Elderenbosch