Heartphones won’t skip a beat

• James Meneghello is working on saving lives - using smartphones. Photo by Jeremy Dixon

• James Meneghello is working on saving lives – using smartphones. Photo by Jeremy Dixon

A MURDOCH University PhD candidate is working on an innovative way for smartphone users to check if they are having a heart attack.

James Meneghello is developing a device where people can connect sensors to their phone via bluetooth, strap them on and have real-life monitoring of their tickers.

Existing heart rate monitors are simple and have limited usefulness.

“Simply put, if somebody had a complex heart monitor hooked up to their phone monitoring their heart in real-time and the phone wasn’t able to keep up with the workload (since processing these signals can be math-heavy), other phones in the users’ vicinity could help out,” he says.

“Or it could send the data for processing to a server farm located anywhere around the world.”

The Leeming locals says the preemptive monitoring can save lives.

“Preferably this system would also include things like ECG harnesses (much more detailed heart sensor which can diagnose arrhythmia, heart defects, impending heart attacks) commonly used in hospital wards, rarely in a mobile environment), EEG (same thing but for brain activity), and lots of others,” he said.

“Not only would this make it a lot easier for doctors to operate in a mobile context (they could carry around a tablet and several sensors and have similar diagnostic ability as they’d have in a hospital), it also has ramifications for emergency diagnostics by paramedics for more effective triage”.

Mr Meneghello says the device can also be used in remote communities, although he admits getting telcos to establish reliable data networks is the tricky part.

“It’d be nice to have it easily set up and hooked up to someone, and just have a chopper fly over once per week or so—where the phone would automatically communicate to hardware on the chopper, recording all data and sending it back to a GP for analysis,” he says.

He says at the moment the technology is expensive but it’s coming down fast.

“There’s one company coming out with a device in the next year or so which is a number of these different sensors (ECG, EEG, PPG) built into a small phone-sized bundle for around $150, which will allow us to do some really cool stuff for minimal cost.”

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