Let me hear your heart beat

October 25, 2010, European Space Agency
Swiss company CSEM has created the Pulsear device to monitor ones heart rate while exercising. Pulsear uses a tiny unit embedded in a regular earphone to see how fast the pulse is by sending the infrared signals through the tissues in your ear. The result is shown on an iPhone. Pulsear is based on space technology developed to examine how astronauts will behave during long space voyages. Credits: CSEM

(PhysOrg.com) -- What if monitoring your heart rate were as easy as listening to music while you jog? Thanks to advances in space technology, an iPhone will soon be able to do double duty: keep you in tune with your favourite artists and your vital signs.

Swiss technology-transfer company CSEM created the final prototype for their Pulsear device this year. A tiny unit embedded in a regular earphone uses infrared signals to see how fast your heart is beating.

It works by sending the infrared signals through the tissues in your ear. A very small records the results and sends the information via the normal earphone wires to a device that plugs into your phone.

The result is an accurate reading of your heart rate, without the irritation of wearing a chest belt.

"A lot of people listen to music while they exercise and a lot of people find the belts uncomfortable," said CSEM's Dr Andrea Ridolfi, "so we thought it made sense to try to measure heart rate through the ear."

Solution thanks to space-tech development

An earlier attempt by CSEM to monitor heart rate using earphones was not satisfactory, said Dr Ridolfi, because the available technology was not sophisticated enough. But that was before CSEM designed a complex chest sensor for measuring astronauts' blood oxygen levels for ESA's Long Term Medical Survey system.

"We wanted something small, compact and unobtrusive for physiological research," said Michel Lazerges, Senior Engineer in charge of ESA's project.

Electrocardiogram (ECG) is a display of the activity of the heart.

For long space voyages, it is essential to learn more about humans subjected to strict confinement and extreme environments over many months.

To meet ESA's requirements, CSEM had to develop existing . "Once we were done," said Dr Ridolfi, "we said, 'let's recycle this’."

With a grant from the ESA Technology Transfer Programme’s ‘Transfer Demonstrator’ initiative, CSEM created the prototype.

An application lets you see your heart rate over time onscreen and compare, say, today's jog with last week's. Subjects who tested the app for use during daily activities and fitness training rated the device highly.

While the current prototype measures only , future versions could easily be adapted to measure additional vital signs such as blood oxygen levels. This would open up a number of medical applications.

For example, it could be used for minimally invasive long-term monitoring of patients with lung conditions. "You can just say, 'go ahead, listen to music'and meanwhile you can keep track of their vital signs," said Dr Ridolfi.

Under test in Siberia

The current model is ideal for sports applications or monitoring people hiking at high altitudes. Currently, the Swiss adventurer Sarah Marquis is using a similar CSEM device to check her own vital signs as she walks from Siberia to Australia.

But even less adventurous travellers could benefit from Pulsear, whose inventors are searching for an industrial partner for commercialisation. Weekend warriors, who worry about overdoing it, can hike, bike or jog knowing that their will warn them if trouble is brewing.

Explore further: Hi-tech shirt to monitor vital signs

Related Stories

Hi-tech shirt to monitor vital signs

May 4, 2006

Integrated smart textile company Sensatex launched this week a patented SmartShirt System that could remotely monitor human vital signs.

Clever clothes in a smart world

February 14, 2008

Pretty soon your gym gear will be more high tech than the groaning treadmill beneath you. Smart textiles and wearable devices can monitor your vital signs as you go about daily life. These clever clothes already exist and ...

Wireless patients

May 26, 2010

A wireless monitoring system for people with debilitating conditions such as Parkinson's disease or chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) could allow healthcare workers to assess a patient's health and the development ...

Recommended for you

Researchers find tweeting in cities lower than expected

February 20, 2018

Studying data from Twitter, University of Illinois researchers found that less people tweet per capita from larger cities than in smaller ones, indicating an unexpected trend that has implications in understanding urban pace ...

Augmented reality takes 3-D printing to next level

February 20, 2018

Cornell researchers are taking 3-D printing and 3-D modeling to a new level by using augmented reality (AR) to allow designers to design in physical space while a robotic arm rapidly prints the work.

What do you get when you cross an airplane with a submarine?

February 15, 2018

Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed the first unmanned, fixed-wing aircraft that is capable of traveling both through the air and under the water – transitioning repeatedly between sky and sea. ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Oct 25, 2010
Instead of seeing the heart rate, why not hearing the heart beat? One can tell more about the heart by hearing it's rhythm than looking at graphs. Besides the heart rhythm is music to your hear. As one moves the heart reflects its process through sounds. I'll take that over any music on the market. If someone made one of these gizmo let me know?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.