Portable sensors are helping monitor the victims of disasters

Victims trapped in collapsed buildings need to be monitored until a rescue team manages to extricate them. A solution for remote medical monitoring of vital signs of a victim with the help of wireless portable sensors, and the transmission of data to a remote healthcare system, was developed and tested by four researchers; George C. Pallis, Lars Hildebrand, Nuno Ferreira and Geert Seynaeve. The obtained data can be transmitted to a computer and viewed in real time, or stored on the device and analysed later.

The research and development of medical monitoring devices using non-invasive methods, such as breath and sweat analysis, is essential for telemedicine applications. Developing sensors for near-real time monitoring of vital signs of victims, adapting them so that they can be easily applied in human body during entrapment and able to work in harsh environments (high temperature, humidity, smoke, dust), and completing them with wireless transmission are the key tasks for effective performing during search and rescue operations.

The aim of the researchers was to test currently available commercial solutions that can be combined with innovative methods. The main challenge of the new technology is to find a way to strap the belt-like probe on victims’ body parts in difficult conditions. For the tests, researchers used the Zephyr BioHarness technology, which consists of a wireless portable bio-monitoring system. They also developed the software for supporting Zephyr device wireless communication and network of sensors. In the next phase of research, they intend to develop the practical method for placing sensors on the victim’s body in the limiting conditions of a collapsed building.

The research was presented at MobiHealth 2014, and can be found here.