Non-contact vital sign sensing

The next step in continuous health monitoring is the invisible integration of vital sign sensors in our environment. Imec researches the use of capacitive sensors and 140 GHz radar to make that happen.

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.

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Non-contact sensing technologies

Currently, we’re looking into two technologies for non-contact vital sign monitoring:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Want to join our research? Need an experienced partner to speed up your development?

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