Telehealth: Wearable Electrocardiograph Using Body Area Network
Telehealth care and ubiquitous monitoring go hand in hand. Sometimes that leads to the creation of novel technologies. More often, it involves repurposing technologies from several other fields and combining them as one.
In the case of the wearable electrocardiograph developed by Japan's National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT), it's a little of both.
An electrocardiograph works by recording continuously, the electrical activity of the heart, via electrode relays on the skin. By detecting any change in the heart's signal output, a range of conditions, both directly and indirectly related to that, can be monitored.
Rather than using electrodes glued in place and wired into the device, the slimline necklace that weighs only 20g, makes use of a body area network - literally a network of dry measurement electrodes which communicate over burst wireless radio waves, with a radius of less than half a meter - only in the person's personal space.
This means that the T shaped main unit is not physically attached to the person's body, and can be slipped on and off at a whim - it only works when in proximity to the electrodes. When worn, it'll happily record ECG data, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so long as the battery holds up. If it falters, its essentially a watch battery, powering the unit, so just replace it.
All data is wirelessly sent to a smart phone, also worn on the person - an iPhone or android device, which serves as the computing power for the system, and which is also used to dial out for help if an abnormality is detected.
As an added bonus, the unit, which is still in the lab at time of writing, also possesses an inbuilt gyroscope. This means that the orientation of the unit can be tracked by the phone unit. So if there is a sudden and rapid movement from the vertical, to the horizontal, and the unit is still within range of all electrodes, then the person has just fallen over, and may need help. If its just taken off of course, then it is no longer within range of the sensors, and not a problem.
The unit will remain in the lab, at least until the body area network standard has been fully ratified, so that iphone and other devices can be equipped with consistency.