Microchip sensor may help prevent cot deaths
Published 27/04/2011 | 05:00
A university research team has developed a microchip sensor that it hopes will revolutionise the prevention of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
The new technology will also detect driver fatigue, as it can measure a person's breathing rate despite the fact it doesn't have any contact with the person involved.
A team at the Tyndall National Institute in University College Cork (UCC) -- which will next month be one of the stops on Queen Elizabeth's itinerary -- developed the tiny microchip.
It will allow for the constant monitoring of babies in cots as well as bed-bound hospital patients and people suffering from apnoea or sleep-related breathing difficulties.
The system also has the potential to be applied as an in-vehicle system to warn drivers -- such as long-haul truckers or deliverymen -- at risk of falling asleep at the wheel.
The microchip system revolves around the use of an ultra wide-band radar, which can detect even the tiniest of movements in its target subject.
It can even detect the echo from skin movement.
The team managed to build this radar detection system into a single silicon chip for the first time ever.
Research team leader Dr Domenico Zito said the microchip was the result of painstaking work over several years.
"We believe that this microchip has the potential to make a profound impact on monitoring respiratory diseases as well as reduce the number of deaths resulting from SIDS or accidents arising from driver fatigue," he said.
"The microchip gives doctors access to extensive data recorded over long observation intervals," he added.
The microchip also has the potential to allow users to be monitored at home -- and for details about their condition to be transmitted in real-time to doctors in either clinics or hospitals.
The system will now undergo a detailed evaluation process for its medical and commercial applications.