Thursday, April 18, 2024

Radar Tech Turns Cars Into Health Monitors

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The University of Waterloo researchers use radar technology to turn cars into health monitors, removing the need for wearables.

Radar sensor held up next to 10c coin to give size comparison. Credit: University of Waterloo
Radar sensor held up next to 10c coin to give size comparison. Credit: University of Waterloo

Drawing inspiration from the medical bay of the USS Enterprise in Star Trek, a team of researchers from the University of Waterloo has utilised radar technology to monitor individuals’ health while they are driving, effectively transforming a standard car or truck into a mobile health monitoring centre. 

The researchers combine radar technology with emerging vehicle advancements to simplify health monitoring. Their goal is to utilise individuals’ time in their cars to collect health data for precise evaluation and early intervention—eliminating the need for wearable devices.

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The compact radar, smaller than a USB thumb drive, is incorporated into the vehicle’s interior and emits signals that detect the vibrations produced by the human body, which are then reflected to the radar. An AI system is integrated into the radar processes and analyses this data to create a medical profile and detect potential health issues. Upon completing their journey, drivers receive a report directly on their cell phones for examination.

It is designed to push the limits of health monitoring and is capable of detecting subtle movements, such as the chest’s expansion and contraction during breathing or the pulsation of heartbeats.

For the team, the challenge lay in advancing the technology to recognize variations in breathing patterns or heart rhythms that could indicate potential health problems. These include cardiovascular conditions like tachycardia and bradycardia and respiratory issues like tachypnea, bradypnea, and apnea.

The system’s ability to accurately detect and interpret respiratory conditions was validated through a series of tests using synthetic data, where subjects simulated symptoms of respiratory conditions by holding their breath and taking shallow breaths. Additionally, the system has been successfully tested on individuals with heart conditions, accurately detecting and identifying these conditions.

Building on this foundation, the research team aims to enhance the radar technology’s capabilities to monitor all vehicle occupants’ overall health and well-being. They plan to develop the system further to run diagnostics and generate comprehensive medical reports that highlight any issues requiring attention and facilitate emergency communication in the event of an accident.

Reference: Ali Gharamohammadi et al, Multibin Breathing Pattern Estimation by Radar Fusion for Enhanced Driver Monitoring, IEEE Transactions on Instrumentation and Measurement (2023). DOI: 10.1109/TIM.2023.3345909

Nidhi Agarwal
Nidhi Agarwal
Nidhi Agarwal is a journalist at EFY. She is an Electronics and Communication Engineer with over five years of academic experience. Her expertise lies in working with development boards and IoT cloud. She enjoys writing as it enables her to share her knowledge and insights related to electronics, with like-minded techies.

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