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Sensors That Measure Heart Beat From 3 Feet Away

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There's nothing more traumatic than being hooked up to beeping monitors, listening to every recorded beat, or being awakened for a nurse to check your vitals.

Now scientists at the University of Sussex Innovation Center, UK, have developed a sensor monitor that can remotely detect your heartbeat from up to 3 feet away.

Traditional instruments require physical contact with a patient to record vital signs, either a stethoscope for a heartbeat or an electrocardiograms (ECG), to measure the heart's electrical activity.

The Electronic Potential Sensor (EPS) is the world's first electrical sensor and allows a patient's medical team to monitor their heartbeat remotely, while they rest.

The device, which is no bigger than a coin, uses an electrode to record the body's electrical field. The signal can then send this data over phone lines or internet connection, or even directly to a physician or nurse.

“These sensors are the result of a sustained research program at Sussex. For the first time we are able to detect electrical signals from the body passively without making physical contact, and in familiar environments such as the home or hospital.”, says Dr. Robert Prance, professor of Sensor Technology as the Sussex Innovation Centre.

The sensors are so sensitive that they are capable of detecting muscle signals, eye movements, and even brain signals.

The research was assisted by the South East Health Technology Alliance (SEHTA) and PassivSytems, a smart-technology company that is currently researching the technology further to develop a wider range of remote health monitoring systems.

There is a potential for the EPS to help elderly patients, not necessarily just those in hospital, by alerting emergency teams if there is a change in the patient's heart rate.

The EPS can also be used as a conventional heart monitor, by simply taking a reading from the fingertip. If a more detailed ECG is required the sensor can actually be held in the hand and has the potential to put on a wristband for ease.

This technology has the potential to become the basis for a multitude of medical smart-technology for remotely monitoring patient's conditions non-invasively.

“Remote telecare can play a crucial role in helping people to remain in their homes rather than going into sheltered accommodation, but the current passive InfraRed sensors require movement to detect a person's presence and cannot easily differentiate between multiple people in a room. The sensors developed by the University of Sussex have incredible potential,” said SEHTA chief executive officer David Parry.

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