Researchers Develop Smaller, Cheaper Device To Monitor Medical Vital Signs

Connie K. Ho for — Your Universe Online

First there was the record player. Then came the portable walkman and CD player. Now there´s the mp3 player and iPod. With the evolution of music, it is clear that technology has made things become smaller and smaller. Even though devices aren´t as large as before, they still retain their effectiveness. A new study from electrical engineers at Oregon State University (OSU) revealed the development of a new device that can track medical vital signs with the help of sensors that are as small as a postage stamp and affordable as well.

In particular, the innovative technology costs less than a quarter and is the size of a bandage. Currently, there is a patent processing for the monitoring system and researchers plan to have it undergo clinical trials. If approved, the monitoring system would be used as a disposable electrical sensor. Addressing the various benefits of the new device, the results of this new technology were recently announced at the Custom Integrated Circuits Conference in San Jose, California.

“Current technology allows you to measure these body signals using bulky, power-consuming, costly instruments,” commented Patrick Chiang, an associate professor in the OSU School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, in a prepared statement.

One of the main purposes of the new monitoring system would be to gather data, like atrial fibrillation and pulse rate, while also tracking EEG brain signals. With these various uses, the monitoring system would be a good fit to help nursing care patients with dementia by recording their daily physical activity or even prove beneficial to weight loss programs.

“What we´ve enabled is the integration of these large components onto a single microchip, achieving significant improvements in power consumption,” continued Chiang in the statement. “We can now make important biomedical measurements more portable, routine, convenient and affordable than ever before.”

Furthermore, compared to previous technology, the new monitoring system is smaller in terms of size, weight and power usage. The new electronic device could simply be attached to the heart or other body part to measure vital signs. With no need for a battery, the device is smaller and utilizes radio-frequency for power. Lastly, the device is about 10 times less the cost of current technology systems that measure the same qualities.

“The entire field of wearable body monitors is pretty exciting,” remarked Chiang in the statement. “By being able to dramatically reduce the size, weight and cost of these devices, it opens new possibilities in medical treatment, health care, disease prevention, weight management and other fields.”

In moving forward with the study of this new technology, the team of investigators plans to collaborate with members of the private industry. They believe that the system could be used along with cell phones or other devices that have high radio-frequency. The device would also be able to run on alternative energy-harvest power resources, like heat or movement from the body.

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