A radar device that can detect sub-centimetre movements in the chest could help prevent cot deaths and warn drivers who are falling asleep at the wheel.
The microchip device sends an ultra-wide band-pulsed radar towards the chest and detects respiration patterns in the reflected echo. As such, it does not need to be in direct contact with the person being monitored.
The prototype can be equipped with logic and algorithms that analyse the output against pre-programmed physiological parameters, allowing it to spot anomalies immediately.
Depending on the specific application, it could then sound an alarm to parents of sleeping infants and vehicle drivers, or alternatively feed back wirelessly to GPs or clinicians.
Speaking to The Engineer, project lead Dr Zito of the Tyndall National Institute in Cork said he was now looking at ways to market the device, which could be incorporated into everyday objects depending on the application.
‘So maybe you can put this within the carousel of a cot that stays directly in front of the baby, or perhaps in one of the bars,’ he said, estimating that the device should not add more than €10 (£8.90) to the cost of manufacturing.
It could also be used for fitness or fatigue monitoring and personalised healthcare for independent and healthy living.
‘The traditional technologies on the market now use wires, electrodes or piezo materials, which require contact and are cumbersome and prone to artifacts, causing degradation of signal quality… contactless technology can overcome this,’ Zito claimed.
He added that the radar technology is safe and has been tested extensively on human volunteers. He stressed that it emits a low-energy radar lasting just 30 billionths of a second, consuming just one millionth of the power of a mobile phone.
Cheap radar detection could also find a market in industrial settings requiring contactless detection of moving objects.