Optical sensor could save miners' lives

A Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) between contract electronics manufacturer Tioga (Derby, UK) and Nottingham University (Nottingham, UK) is driving the development of a head-mounted heart sensor which could save lives in the mining industry.

Optical sensor could save miners' lives
Optical sensor could save miners' lives

A Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) between contract electronics manufacturer Tioga (Derby, UK) and Nottingham University (Nottingham, UK) is driving the development of a head-mounted optical heart sensor which could save lives in the mining industry.

The penny-sized device, which can be slotted within a miner's helmet, will monitor heart rate, temperature, activity and respiration while also checking for dangerous gases. As well as providing real-time information it can also, using diagnostic software, monitor long-term occupational health in any high-risk industrial environment.

Back in 2008, academics at Nottingham began to research more innovative ways of monitoring newborn babies and came up with 'Heart Light', an optical sensor which could be fitted to a child's head.

A chance meeting with Professor Barrie Hayes-Gill led Tioga's managing director, Warwick Adams, to wonder if the Heart Light might be adapted to monitor the wellbeing of miners.

The logical step was for the business and university to sign a license agreement to develop the technology and to form a KTP, which they did.

Now, with the support of the UK Technology Strategy Board (Swindon, UK) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Steve Jackson from the university has been helping to develop a mining industry mobile sensor from the Heart Light concept.

Tioga has already held successful trials and is aiming to launch the product in 2014.

Many other researchers are harnessing the power of the smart phone to measure vital signs. Here are two recent developments covered recently in Vision Systems Design.

1. App detects vital signs using smart phone camera

Using the built-in video camera of a smart phone, engineers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI; Worcester, MA, USA) have developed an app that can measure not only heart rate but also patients' vital signs such as heart rhythm, respiration rate, and blood oxygen saturation.

2. Cell phone helps diagnose pneumonia

A researcher at the University of British Columbia (Vancouver, Canada) is developing a cell phone based camera oximeter that uses the built-in camera of a mobile phone to measure oxygen saturation, heart rate and respiratory rate.

-- Dave Wilson, Senior Editor, Vision Systems Design

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