[TC]2 Takes Body Scanning Technology Into Healthcare

[TC]² is taking its 3D Scanners and software — typically used to facilitate better fitting and/or custom-made apparel — into healthcare data collection, and the move is expected to have significant benefits in identifying health risks.

The Cary, N.C–based research and consulting organization signed an exclusivity agreement with Select Research Limited of Birmingham, England and both companies announced a joint project in the United Kingdom on April 10, 2013, that supports a new patented measurement called the Body Volume Index or BVI.

Specifically, Select Research has patented a process for measuring the shape of the human body in three dimensions for healthcare data collection based on body volume rather than body mass. Body shape is believed to be related to health care risk and it is accepted that people with excess fat around their midsection are at a greater risk of cardiovascular disease than those with weight distributed elsewhere. The currently used Body Mass Index (BMI), devised in 1830, cannot interpret an individual’s body shape and weight distribution.

[TC]² 3D scanners and software have been used to provide the 3D human body shape images for development of BVI. These images have been correlated with other medical information to provide risk indicators and a better reference model for individuals than BMI.

[TC]² developed the first 3D scanning system specifically for the apparel industry and several hundred scanners are in use worldwide. President and CEO Mike Fralix said, "It has taken nearly 20 years for the apparel industry to move away from the tape measure as the core instrument of measurement and it may take a while for healthcare to adapt from manual to automatic measurement, but we recognize the importance of being able to assist with leveraging this technology into another industry.  It’s exciting to be part of the development of the new BVI body shape reference model which has the potential to modernize and improve healthcare data collection while being available to far more people."

In February 2000, while scanning over 10,000 men, women and children for leading UK retailer Marks & Spencer, Select Research developed the concept of using 3D scanners to help the UK address the problem of increased obesity, especially in children. Since 2001 [TC]² has provided technical support for the UK firm to advance its research for recruiting all participants for Size UK through to the latest National Childrenswear Survey; Shape GB. (These first-ever national sizing surveys for the UK involved the Department of Trade and Industry, leading British retailers and academics.)

BVI data would be accumulated via the [TC]² scanners housed at medical centers for data collection and, remotely, through webcams, Smartphones and Tablets in people’s homes or outside of the hospital environment. The 3D scanners would provide detailed shape measurements. The use of mobile devices has the potential to deliver a much larger population of subjects and data while offering data collection on as wide a scale as currently exists with BMI.  

Data have been collated for validation purposes by Select Research and its medical collaborators since March 2007. They suggest BVI long-term could be a more valuable healthcare risk predictor than BMI which only measures the relationship between a person’s height and weight (while BVI, again, is based on body shape in three dimensions to indicate health risk). With the support of [TC]²   the next phase is designed to establish a network of scanning centers across the US and beyond. This network intends to make BVI easily accessible, usable, and available to the population at large.

The rollout of BVI is part of a long-term initiative to modernize data collection and to provide measurement solutions within the healthcare arena while Select Research continues researching BVI with Aston University, Heartlands NHS Hospital, Mayo Clinic and the University of Hull to ensure its data is statistically significant. Concurrently, the on-line system (webcams, Smartphones, Tablets) will facilitate the collating of significant data sets of different populations to ensure statistical validity for various ethnic, age and gender groups.

With the support of [TC]²  a network of scanners will make BVI easily accessible, usable, and available to the population at large, further enhanced when the BVI on-line system becomes used for in-home measurement. Richard Barnes, managing director of Select explained how this might lead to financial benefits to existing [TC]²  owners and users. "We, like other [TC]²  owners, know the benefits of the 3D software and scanning technology and the potential that a wider linked network of scanners can offer," he says.

"The on-line BVI system can easily be set up alongside existing scanners to attract new customers to be scanned and as BVI becomes more accepted globally, existing scanner owners could potentially assist in creating scanner sales into healthcare for local markets," Barnes continues. "We have always believed collaboration is the means to achieve wider recognition of 3D scanning and this initiative with [TC]² might offer opportunities to generate income for many scanner owners around the world in a different field; healthcare."

The BVI on-line measurement system is being unveiled at the prestigious NICE Annual Conference in the UK this week and Select Research will continue researching BVI with its collaborators to ensure its data is statistically significant. [TC]²  will manufacture the scanners at its offices in Cary and Richard Allen of Shape Analysis, who has been working with Select during the initial development of BVI, will continue to assist [TC]² technical staff with advice and support on BVI and our ongoing apparel services.
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