MAS – Nanoelectronics for Mobile AAL Systems

Mobile early warning system for cardiovascular diseases

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Elderly people carry a higher risk of suffering from particular diseases and thus have to see a doctor more often. At the same time their physical mobility may deteriorate; thus monitoring health risk indicators becomes a real burden. Here, so-called Ambient Assisted Living (AAL) systems may help elderly people live independently and in good health for a longer period of time. In the European MAS project, FIT works with Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin and T-Systems to develop new, nanoelectronics-based concepts for assisted living.

There is a wide range of application scenarios for Ambient Assisted Living systems, among them a monitoring system for cardiovascular diseases, globally still the most frequent cause of death. In particular, infarcts can be prevented or their consequences alleviated by early diagnosis. Here, a diagnostic system for home use might prove helpful.

At present, cardiologists know but a few clear single indicators of an impending infarct; several so-called risk mediators need to be measured for a valid diagnosis. The MAS project thus aims to build, for use in the patient’s home, a compact device that combines communication and processing functionality with a range of attached sensors that measure different diagnostic parameters. This leads to a number of requirements: For mobile use in the patient’s home, sensors must be as small as possible, with wireless transmission of sensor data, to avoid restricting the user’s mobility. Continuous monitoring of vital parameters like arterial oxygen saturation, pulse and rhythm of the heart should be combined with on-demand diagnostic tests of blood parameters. Sensor data should be transmitted wirelessly to a medical monitoring center – or to a physician where necessary. And the data should be preprocessed to aid the physician’s diagnosis as far as possible.

At the moment FIT is setting up all the modules in the chain from the patient to the physician. As an example, we adapted an in-ear pulse oxymeter to mobile use by adding a Bluetooth module. Now the patient can wear it and move about in his home while the sensor transmits its data to the local processing unit and from there to a server in the medical center.

Bespoke apps display the aggregated data on the smartphone of the patient and of the physician, giving each the information they need. For example, the physician is shown irregularities in the rhythm of the patient’s heart and can use the app to ask the patient for a blood sample from his finger. The blood is analyzed in the device in the patient’s home. It uses fluorescence and electrochemical sensors to capture cardiovascular markers. Their levels are determined in the local processing unit, which then sends the data to the medical center and to the physician who decides on the next steps to be taken.

The modular sensor platform that FIT develops in the MAS project can now also be used to test additional applications for mobile AAL systems.