Panasonic, Kyoto University unveil radar-based remote vital sign sensor

Radar-based vital-sign monitoring technology--Courtesy of Kyoto University and Panasonic (click to enlarge)

Kyoto University and Panasonic have revealed a novel vital-sign-sensing technology that's based on radar. This enables the system to remotely detect heart rate and heartbeat interval without any sensors being placed on the patient's body. The accuracy of the system is on par with electrocardiographs.

The technology could enable passive tracking, in which people are monitored routinely in public spaces or at home. The researchers expect the technology could also be used to track other vital signs including breathing as well as bodily movement.

"Taking measurements with sensors on the body can be stressful and troublesome, because you have to stop what you're doing," said Panasonic researcher Hiroyuki Sakai in a statement. "What we tried to make was something that would offer people a way to monitor their body in a casual and relaxed environment."

This effort isn't the only one aimed at enabling remote, sensorless vital-sign monitoring. Another research program from U.K. startup Oxehealth is testing camera-based vital sign monitoring in conjunction with the country's National Health Service (NHS) and Oxford University. Oxehealth is the first joint spinout from the University of Oxford and Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust.

The radar-based vital sign monitoring system is expected to be part of technology enabling individuals to monitor their own health. It combines millimeter-wave spread-spectrum radar technology with a signal analysis algorithm that identifies signals from the body.

"Heartbeats aren't the only signals the radar catches," said Toru Sato, a professor of communications and computer engineering at Kyoto University. "The body sends out all sorts of signals at once, including breathing and body movement. It's a chaotic soup of information. Our algorithm differentiates all of that. It focuses on the features of waves including heart beats from the radar signal and calculates their intervals. Now that we know that remote sensing is possible, we'll need to make the measurement ability more robust so that the system can monitor subjects in various age ranges and in many different contexts."

- here is the announcement

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