These days we are a little spoiled. There are many sensors you can grab, hook up to your favorite microcontroller, load up some simple library code, and you are in business. When [Raivis] got a MAX30100 pulse oximeter breakout board, he thought it would go like that. It didn’t. He found it takes a lot of processing to get useful results out of the device. Lucky for us he wrote it all down with Arduino code to match.
A pulse oximeter measures both your pulse and the oxygen saturation in your blood. You’ve probably had one of these on your finger or earlobe at the doctor’s office or a hospital. Traditionally, they consist of a red LED and an IR LED. A detector measures how much of each light makes it through and the ratio of those two quantities relates to the amount of oxygen in your blood. We can’t imagine how [Karl Matthes] came up with using red and green light back in 1935, and how [Takuo Aoyagi] (who, along with [Michio Kishi]) figured out the IR and red light part.
The MAX30100 manages to alternate the two LEDs, regulate their brightness, filter line noise out of the readings, and some other tasks. It stores the data in a buffer. The trick is: how do you interpret that buffer?
[Raivis] shows the code to take the output from the buffer, remove the DC component, pass it through a couple of software filters, and detect the heart rate. To read the oxygen reading, you have even more work to do. You can find the code for the device on GitHub.