Hopefully, you will never need this technology, but may people do. People in hospitals are hooked up to devices that monitor their vital signs. This way doctors are able to accurately assess patient’s condition. There are a bunch of wires going to different machines and all of them are necessary. Or at least were necessary, because now scientists from the University of Waterloo developed a new radar system.

Measurement of vital signs, such as breathing while asleep, typically involves wired devices. Image credit: Andreas Praefcke via Wikimedia

This technology can wirelessly monitor the vital signs of patients. This means that no cables are necessary to hook up a patient to all these machines in order to monitor their vitals. The radar system itself is housed in a device, which is pretty much as big as a smartphone. And yet, despite its minute size, it is able to analyse and record heart and breathing rates using sensitive radar waves. This data can then be analysed by sophisticated algorithms embedded in an on-board digital signal processing unit.

Interestingly, this device was actually developed to monitor people with sleep apnoea. Sleep studies are always difficult to conduct due to disturbance caused to the subject. Lab environment already is not the most comforting, but all those cables certainly are not helping. This radar is able to detect subtle chest movements, which allows monitoring breathing during sleep. During tests the device was mounted on the ceiling above the bed. Scientists found that this device is 90 % as accurate as wired devices. Therefore, not as accurate as existing technology, but patients are able to sleep in any position and do not feel any effects of the measurements being taken.

Probably the best thing about this technology is that people will not have to necessarily stay at the sleep clinic. The device is so small and so easy to use that it could be easily used at the comfort of your own home. It is as easy as mounting the device somewhere above bed, turning it on and going to sleep. George Shaker, an engineering behind this invention, said: “With traditional systems involving wires and appointments booked weeks in advance, you can’t sleep as you normally do in your own bed at home, making the common sleep study an unpleasant experience”.

Breathing is just one of the vital signs. It is possible to measure other ones wirelessly as well. However, the cost of an inaccurate measurement in those cases is simply too high. On the other hand, radar technology could improve sleep research and provide a good diagnostics tool for sleep apnoea.

Source: University of Waterloo