We’re increasingly familiar with continuous vital sign sensing. Its benefits are obvious: a more comprehensive view of someone’s health and the possibility of ambulatory monitoring.
The main enablers of this trend have been the recent breakthroughs in wearable technologies. Thanks to advancements in nano- and digital technology, we’re now able to develop small, low-power devices that can be comfortably worn for days at a time.
Meanwhile, those same advancements in chip technology are driving the next wave of continuous monitoring, eliminating the need for a physical connection with the human body altogether.
Imec is in the process of developing this truly unobtrusive vital sensing technology with a range of medical and non-medical applications.
Non-contact sensing technologies
Currently, we’re looking into two technologies for non-contact vital sign monitoring:
- Capacitive sensors are able to carry out ECG readings and detect respiration rates through clothing. They’re equipped with smart algorithms which ensure reliable readings by compensating for variations due to movements or artifacts.
- 140 GHz radar chips – also used for gesture recognition - can detect heartbeat and respiration from a considerable distance. Because they’re tiny and low-cost, it’s easy to unobtrusively embed them in our surroundings.
Applications of unobtrusive health monitoring
Non-contact vital sign sensors have a lot of applications in cases where strapping on wearables is too cumbersome or simply impossible. A few examples:
- Radar chips in the dashboard and capacitive sensors in the car seat are able to check driver alertness.
- In elderly care, non-obtrusive sensors can help to assist nursing staff, particularly when a patient resides at home.
- In demanding work environments, non-contact sensors can have a preventive function – for instance stress monitoring.
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Publications & Conference on non-contact vital sign sensing
- Zulquarnain et al. "Design trade-offs in amorphous indium gallium zinc oxide thin film transistor based bio-signal sensing front-ends", IOP Science, (2019)
- Buxi et al. "Systolic time interval estimation using continuous wave radar with on-body antennas", IEEE Journal of Biomedical and Health Informatics, (2017)
- Wang et al. "Biomedical Radars for Monitoring Health", Principles and Applications of RF/Microwave in Healthcare and Biosensing, (2017)
- Mercuri et al. "Monostatic continuous-wave radar integrating a tunable wideband leakage canceler for indoor tagless localization", International Journal of Microwave and Wireless Technologies, (2017)
- Mercuri et al. "A Direct Phase-Tracking Doppler Radar Using Wavelet Independent Component Analysis for Non-Contact Respiratory and Heart Rate Monitoring", IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Circuits and Systems, (2018)
- Liu et al. "A 680 μW Burst-Chirp UWB Radar Transceiver for Vital Signs and Occupancy Sensing up to 15m Distance", IEEE ISSCC, (2019)
- Mercuri et al. "Vital-sign monitoring and spatial tracking of multiple people using a contactless radar-based sensor", Nature Electronics, (2019)