It’s interesting to see the different form-factors that people utilize for their portable biometric sensors. We’re seeing heart rate monitors and other biometric sensors integrated into watches, earbuds, headbands, sports bras, and all sorts of other garments and accessories. [Gabi] took an intriguing approach, integrating an electrocardiogram (ECG) into a backpack. This type of heart rate project is pretty popular here on Hackaday, so it was great running across [Gabi’s] design during our daily perusing for the new and exciting.
[Gabi] used an Adafruit FLORA, a BLE module, an ECG sensor from Bitalino, a few other ancillary components, and, of course, a backpack. We appreciate that she walked us through the list of stumblingblocks she came across and how she got around them. So much of the time in our excitement to share our projects we remove the gory details and only present the finished project when really, we learn most from all the things that didn’t work more so than the things that did. Finally, [Gabi] walks through the intricacies of the threading and the particular placement of the snap connectors to attach the circuit to the ECG electrodes. Things get pretty tricky, but luckily [Gabi] documents her project pretty meticulously with schematics, pictures, and early notice of pitfalls.
[Gabi] made sure to remind her readers that this is a prototype, not a medical device. She also brought up electrical safety. Biometric devices such as ECGs need to include a strict set of isolation circuits to prevent potential harm to the user. Fortunately, there are a few well-characterized methods to accomplish this.
Every few years, or so we’re told, [Scott] revisits the idea of building an electrocardiogram machine. This is just a small box with three electrodes. Attach them to your chest, and you get a neat readout of your heartbeat. This is a project that has been done to death, but [Scott]’s most recent implementation is fantastic. It’s cheap, relying on the almost absurd capability for analog to digital conversion found in every sound card, and the software is great. It’s the fit and finish that makes this project shine.
The hardware for this build is simply an AD8232, a chip designed to be the front end of any electrocardiogram. This is then simply connected to the microphone port of a sound card through a 1/8″ cable. For the exceptionally clever, there’s a version based on an op-amp. It’s an extraordinarily simple build, but as with all simple builds the real trick is in the software. That’s where this project really shines, with custom software with graphics, and enough information being displayed to actually tell you something.
We’ve seen a number of sound card ADCs being used for electrocardiograms in the past, including some from the Before Times; it makes sense, sound cards are the cheapest way to get a lot of analog data very quickly. You can check out [Scott]’s demo video out below.
Our morning routine could be appended to something like “breakfast, stretching, sit on a medical examiner, shower, then commute.” If we are speaking seriously, we don’t always get to our morning stretches, but a quick medical exam could be on the morning agenda. We would wager that a portion of our readers are poised for that exam as they read this article. The examiner could come in the form of a toilet seat. This IoT throne is the next device you didn’t know you needed because it can take measurements to detect signs of heart failure every time you take a load off.
Tracking heart failure is not just one test, it is a buttload of tests. Continuous monitoring is difficult although tools exist for each test. It is unreasonable to expect all the at-risk people to sit at a blood pressure machine, inside a ballistocardiograph, with an oximeter on their fingers three times per day. Getting people to browse Hackaday on their phones after lunch is less of a struggle. When the robots overthrow us, this will definitely be held against us.
We are not sure if this particular hardware will be open-source, probably not, but there is a lesson here about putting sensors where people will use them. Despite the low rank on the glamorous scale, from a UX point of view, it is ingenious. How can we flush out our own projects to make them usable? After all, if you build a badass morning alarm, but it tries to kill you, it will need some work and if you make a gorgeous clock with the numbers all messed up…okay, we dig that particular one for different reasons.
We don’t think of the human body as a piece of electronics, but a surprising amount of our bodies work on electricity. The heart is certainly one of these. When you think about it, it is pretty amazing. A pump the size of your fist that has an expected service life of nearly 100 years.
All that electrical activity is something you can monitor and–if you know what to look for–irregular patterns can tell you if everything is OK in there. [Ohoilett] is a graduate student in the biomedical field and he shares some simple circuits for reading electrocardiogram (ECG) data. You can see a video fo the results, below.
DIY medical science is fun stuff. One can ferret out many of the electrical signals that make the body run with surprisingly accessible components and simple builds. While the medical community predictably dwells on the healthcare uses of such information, the hacker is free to do whatever he or she wants.
A few months ago, MobilECG wowed us with a formidable electrocardiograph (ECG, also EKG) machine in the format of a business card, complete with an OLED display. We’ve seen business card hacks before, but that was the coolest. But that’s peanuts compared with the serious project that it supports: making an open-source ECG machine that can actually save lives by being affordable enough to be where it’s needed, when it’s needed.
The project, MobilECG, is an open-source, wearable device that supports all of the major ECG modes. In their talk, [Péter Isza] and [Róbert Csordás] taught us a lot about what that exactly entails and how the heart works. We learned a lot, and we’ll share some of that with you after the break.
The project is built around the HC-06 bluetooth module and the Stellaris LaunchPad from TI, an inexpensive ARM developer kit. Building an ECG is a great way to learn about instrumentation amplifiers, a type of differential amplifier used for its extremely high common mode rejection ratio (CMRR). Please be sure to keep in mind that there are a myriad of safety issues and regulation concerns for medical device, and there is no doubt that an ECG is considered a medical device. Sadly, [Nuclearrambo’s] post does not include all of the code and design files you need to build the system, which is understandable considering this is a medical device. That being said, he provides a lot of information about building high-quality ECG instrumentation and the web interface.
It would be great if [Nuclearrambo] could post the Android application code and Stellaris LaunchPad code. Even with these omissions, this post is still worth reading. Designing medical devices requires a lot of know-how, but who knows, maybe your next project can save your life!