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Hong Kong: IoT-Powered Robotic Device for Stroke Rehabilitation

Image Credits: PolyU, Press Release

A team of researchers at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) achieved a significant step in the development of rehabilitation devices by introducing a groundbreaking technology-driven solution. The Mobile Ankle-foot Exoneuromusculoskeleton, a robot for ankle-foot rehabilitation designed specifically for stroke patients with hemiplegia, utilises the Internet of Things (IoT) technology to revolutionise the way stroke patients regain their lower limb function and walking ability.

Image Credits: PolyU, Press Release

This device facilitates tele-rehabilitation, allowing remote monitoring and self-help rehabilitation exercises at home, thereby addressing the challenge of limited access to in-person rehabilitation services in Hong Kong.

In recent years, Hong Kong has experienced a high number of new stroke cases annually, with a large portion of patients suffering from varying degrees of physical mobility impairments. Regular and intensive rehabilitation training is crucial for these patients to regain their physical mobility and alleviate post-stroke disabilities.

However, due to the overwhelming demand for daytime outpatient rehabilitation services, stroke patients often struggle to receive timely and consistent rehabilitation. Common issues among stroke patients, such as foot drop and inversion, significantly disrupt their daily lives.

The Mobile Ankle-foot Exoneuromusculoskeleton, developed by a research team led by Dr. Hu Xiaoling, Associate Professor of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at PolyU, is a groundbreaking wearable robot for ankle-foot rehabilitation.

This multifaceted device combines exoskeleton technology, soft pneumatic muscles, tactile sensory feedback, and neuromuscular electrical stimulation to effectively correct foot drop, foot inversion, and improve the walking gait of stroke patients. It also aids in balance improvement and contributes to long-term rehabilitative neuroplasticity.

Stroke patients with hemiplegia often suffer from weakened muscle strength and coordination in their affected lower limbs, especially in the foot and ankle. The Mobile Ankle-foot Exoneuromusculoskeleton can automatically detect various gait events, including standing, heel strike, heel off, and toe-off. With mechanical support from the exoskeleton, soft pneumatic muscles, vibration tactile feedback, and neuromuscular electrical stimulation, the device helps patients stand securely on their affected foot, balance plantar pressure, and exert propelling force when walking, ultimately enhancing their foot drop condition.

The device is characterised by its lightweight design, weighing approximately 400 grams, which allows hemiplegic patients to wear it independently. It also boasts energy efficiency, providing up to four hours of continuous use with a 9V rechargeable battery, enabling patients to engage in rehabilitation exercises at their convenience, whether at home or outdoors.

In contrast, other lower-limb exoskeleton robots on the market primarily depend on external forces and have limited capabilities in improving ankle joint and muscle coordination for stroke patients. They are typically constrained to hospital and rehabilitation clinic settings. Conventional ankle-foot orthoses may result in muscle atrophy and disrupt patients’ ability to regain voluntary motor control over the affected ankle.

The device not only offers stroke patients a more flexible and effective approach to lower limb rehabilitation but also enables therapists to remotely supervise multiple patients’ rehabilitation progress. It aims to complement traditional outpatient rehabilitation services and help stroke patients achieve more efficient rehabilitation results.

The PolyU team is collaborating with local and Mainland hospitals and rehabilitation clinics to conduct clinical studies on the Mobile Ankle-foot Exoneuromusculoskeleton. The results have shown that this device significantly enhances stroke rehabilitation, surpassing the efficacy of using external mechanical forces alone. Patients participating in the clinical studies demonstrated notable improvements in ankle dorsiflexion and successfully corrected foot inversion.

The team has harnessed IoT technology to record patients’ rehabilitation progress through a mobile app. This approach offers real-time monitoring, progressive evaluation, personalised guidance, and reminders. It empowers patients to engage in rehabilitation independently, improving patient engagement and treatment outcomes.

The app fosters mutual support and companionship among patients throughout their training journey, allowing therapists to provide remote monitoring and supervision for multiple patients, ensuring a smooth rehabilitation process.

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Qlik’s vision is a data-literate world, where everyone can use data and analytics to improve decision-making and solve their most challenging problems. A private company, Qlik offers real-time data integration and analytics solutions, powered by Qlik Cloud, to close the gaps between data, insights and action. By transforming data into Active Intelligence, businesses can drive better decisions, improve revenue and profitability, and optimize customer relationships. Qlik serves more than 38,000 active customers in over 100 countries.

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CTC Global Singapore, a premier end-to-end IT solutions provider, is a fully owned subsidiary of ITOCHU Techno-Solutions Corporation (CTC) and ITOCHU Corporation.

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SIRIM is a premier industrial research and technology organisation in Malaysia, wholly-owned by the Minister​ of Finance Incorporated. With over forty years of experience and expertise, SIRIM is mandated as the machinery for research and technology development, and the national champion of quality. SIRIM has always played a major role in the development of the country’s private sector. By tapping into our expertise and knowledge base, we focus on developing new technologies and improvements in the manufacturing, technology and services sectors. We nurture Small Medium Enterprises (SME) growth with solutions for technology penetration and upgrading, making it an ideal technology partner for SMEs.

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IBM is a leading global hybrid cloud and AI, and business services provider. We help clients in more than 175 countries capitalize on insights from their data, streamline business processes, reduce costs and gain the competitive edge in their industries. Nearly 3,000 government and corporate entities in critical infrastructure areas such as financial services, telecommunications and healthcare rely on IBM’s hybrid cloud platform and Red Hat OpenShift to affect their digital transformations quickly, efficiently and securely. IBM’s breakthrough innovations in AI, quantum computing, industry-specific cloud solutions and business services deliver open and flexible options to our clients. All of this is backed by IBM’s legendary commitment to trust, transparency, responsibility, inclusivity and service.

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