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Dutch Researchers Focus On RFID-Based Sensors for Monitoring Apnea, Epilepsy

IMEC-Nederland's body-monitoring systems employ 2.45 GHz active RFID tags integrated with sensors to record and transmit data about a wearer's vital signs.
By Claire Swedberg
Dec 05, 2007Dutch nonprofit research institute IMEC-Nederland (IMEC-NL) has built several prototypes of human body-monitoring systems using 2.45 GHz active RFID tags integrated with sensors to record and transmit data about a wearer's vital signs to a central system. Work on the devices was carried out at the Holst Center, an Eindhoven-based research institute for wireless solutions. The center was established in 2005 by IMEC and Dutch scientific research institute TNO, and supported by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs. IMEC-NL now hopes to attract the interest of vendors able to market wireless monitoring systems for such conditions as epilepsy and sleep apnea.

A patient hospitalized with epilepsy is often monitored around the clock via 24 electrodes attached to the face and scalp and connected to wires that plug into a box beside a hospital bed. That box receives data about brain and facial activity, and is cabled to a computer that tracks the patient's condition.

For an individual suffering from sleep apnea, treatment typically includes spending a night at a clinic for monitoring purposes. While the patient sleeps, electrodes are attached to the face to measure eye and jaw muscle movement, as well as brain activity, and are wired to a receiving device that connects data to a computer for analysis.

The goal of IMEC is to make such procedures wireless, providing patients mobility and perhaps even allowing them to be monitored in their homes rather than at a clinic or hospital. The institute began developing wireless sensor technology around 2000, says Bert Gyselinckx, IMEC-NL's program director for wireless autonomous transducer solutions. In 2002, the company created the first portable electroencephalogram (EEG), which monitors brain waves. This included 24 electrodes that attach to the head, wired to a shoebox-sized device that amplifies and filters data from the electrodes and transmits that information to a receiver that can then be attached to a PC.

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