Let me Hear Your Heart Beat

By European Space Agency, PRNE
Tuesday, December 21, 2010

NOORDWIJK, The Netherlands, December 22, 2010 - 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.

With the support of ESA's Technology Transfer Programme (ESA TTP), Swiss
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 sends infrared signals through the tissues in
your ear. A tiny photo diode records the results and sends the information
via the 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.

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

Solution thanks to space-tech

Earlier attempts by CSEM to monitor heart rate using earphones were not
satisfactory, said Dr Ridolfi, because the available technology was not
sophisticated enough. But that was before CSEM developed a complex chest
sensor for measuring astronauts' blood oxygen levels for ESA's Long Term
Medical Survey system. "Once we were done," said Dr Ridolfi, "we said, 'let's
recycle this'."

With a grant from the ESA TTP's 'Technology Transfer Demonstrator'
initiative, CSEM created the prototype. The initiative supports development
of new hardware and software to bridge the gap between the space technology
and its terrestrial use.

An iPhone application shows your heart rate over time onscreen and
compares, say, today's jog with last week's. Subjects who tested the app
during their fitness training rated the device highly. While the current
prototype measures only heart rate, 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.

"Technology transfer from space has a huge potential to spur innovation
in areas you wouldn't expect to find space-tech", explains Frank M.
, Head of ESA TTP. "ESA TTP wants to help European industry to apply
sophisticated space solutions to their markets."

Open Call for Technology Transfer Demonstrators:

More information: www.esa.int/ttp

Contact: ttp at esa.int / +31-71-565-6208

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