Innovative vital sign monitoring units

The Guardian research project by the BMBF is developing a promising sensor solution for contactless bedside diagnostics.

Donnersdorf, 25/02/2021. For over three years, seven project partners worked together to create a new device to enhance the quality of life of those receiving care and to facilitate the work of medical staff. In November 2020, the Guardian research project came to a successful conclusion. The result is an innovative radar sensor that monitors vital signs in hospitals with no need for contact.


Pioneering technology detects minimal vibrations

The newly developed device precisely measures respiratory motion and heartbeats without contact using multimodal, high-frequency radar sensors. This is the first time that six-port interferometry technology is being used, which senses even the tiniest changes and spikes in vital signs.

The radar module detects all body movements in the micrometre range and with an unprecedented distance resolution and evaluates the detections using automated signal processing algorithms. The resulting data are prepared for diagnostics and provided by the system to medical/nursing staff. The system can also be directly integrated into the hospital IT system in order to more easily document the recorded values.


Significance for care and medicine

The recording of vital signs such as breathing and heart rate is an essential measure in medical diagnoses and the assessment of patients’ health. Especially with vulnerable persons, for example in intensive and palliative care, reliable detection is crucial in critical situations. However, the electrodes and sensors in use so far are often connected by wires and are susceptible to malfunctions. This limits patients’ freedom of movement and complicates the work of nursing staff.

The aim of the Guardian project was therefore to develop a contactless and precise monitoring unit suitable for permanent and long-duration monitoring of vital signs. The new system provides patients with a better quality of life due to the lack of restrictions to their movement and less risk of skin irritation. The digital monitoring unit relieves the burden on medical and nursing staff and informs them in good time of any conspicuous changes. The highly accurate measurements of vibrations enable initial changes in breathing or heart rate to be detected early on, which are indicative of a potential life-threatening incident.

The experts also see great potential for this technology in use in nursing homes, outpatient treatment, and home care. The new digital monitoring units could also help watch after newborns.


The Guardian research project

The project was launched in January 2017 as part of an initiative by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) to promote innovations in intensive and palliative care. The project name stands for ‘GUarded by Advanced Radar technology-based DIagnostics applied in palliative and intensive care Nursing’. The project volume amounted to 2.46 million euros, of which the BMBF covered 60 percent. The network was coordinated by the company getemed Medizin- und Informationstechnik AG. In addition, the following companies and institutions were involved in the development of the new sensor for vital sign monitoring: the Friedrich–Alexander University Erlangen–Nürnberg, the University Hospital of Erlangen, the radar technology company InnoSenT, the company Geratherm Respiratory GmbH, the university of applied sciences Wilhelm Löhe Hochschule – Wissenschaft und Forschung WuF GmbH, and the Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus-Senftenberg.

The project partners ideally complemented each other through their variety of competencies and fields of activity. The interdisciplinary cooperation fostered the creation of product specifications tailored to the requirements, target-oriented prototype development, and its adaptation and testing in practice. The project partners also tested the integration of the system into the workflow in order to observe the positive effects and possible limits.

An internal research group also dealt with possible legal, social, and ethical issues that using such a digital monitoring unit in patient care would entail. The internal project group examined in detail whether the changes in the relationship with healthcare staff were morally acceptable and what risks might arise. In addition, they investigated whether the data processing complied with data protection standards and was sufficiently reliable for legal aspects.

Before the system is made ready for series production, the performance of the sensor system is now being tested in a long-term trial in terms of its practicality in everyday work at various hospitals.

As an expert in radar technology, InnoSenT made a significant contribution to the development of the sensor system. The company managed to adapt its knowledge of industrial and automotive radar development to the needs of the healthcare sector. In addition, InnoSenT significantly further developed the sensor system during its research activities, thus making considerable advances in distance resolution and signal processing which are now available for use in health diagnostics for the first time.

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About InnoSenT GmbH

InnoSenT GmbH from Donnersdorf was founded in 1999 and is one of the world's leading companies in the field of radar technology. As a manufacturer and developer, the company supplies the full bandwidth of engineering services - from customer-specific development to series production. Thanks to the strong focus on quality and innovation, InnoSenT GmbH has been following a course to global success for many years.