Bio-Monitor: Keeping an eye on astronauts' vital signs
A new wearable technology has been designed to fit into an astronaut's daily routine aboard the International Space Station (ISS) while monitoring and recording vital signs.
This system, which includes a smart shirt and dedicated tablet application, will help keep an eye on astronauts' health and enable new science by continuously measuring physiological data.
Doing science in space is no easy task. To participate in health experiments, astronauts must use several medical devices including electrocardiographs, blood pressure cuffs, fingertip oxygen saturation monitors, and ankle-bracelet activity sensors.
These devices are often bulky and invasive. Using them is disruptive and time-consuming.
The Bio-Monitor simplifies the process by combining numerous devices into one wireless, easy-to-use garment that records vital sign data. The system measures the following:
- pulse and electrical activity of the heart
- blood pressure
- breathing rate and volume
- skin temperature
- blood oxygen saturation
- physical activity levels
The smart shirt can also be worn during sleep and exercise. The system is designed to easily send information to the ground, where scientists can monitor the astronauts' health around the clock as they orbit the planet.
Using Bio-Monitor on the ISS will allow scientists to:
- record astronauts' vital signs in a way that does not disturb daily activities or require lots of time or attention
- replace bigger equipment with a sleek all-in-one garment
- receive scientific data directly from space for faster analysis
This system has the potential to help Canadians who are bedridden, housebound, or living in rural communities with limited access to medical support. It can also be worn by workers in dangerous environments such as mines, industrial sites, or factories.
An early version of this technology is used to improve professional sports performance around the world. Champion Canadian skiers Chloé, Justine, and Maxime Dufour-Lapointe used the smart shirt to train at elite levels.
How it works
- The wearable technology system is designed to be as comfortable as a typical snug shirt. The shirt has adjustable straps to position small metal sensors against the skin in order to get a good reading.
- If an astronaut is about to exercise, he or she can use a tablet application to specify the type of activity and see his or her vital signs throughout the session.
- Once finished, the astronaut disconnects the battery pack and plugs it into a base, which downloads the data to Earth through the Station's communications system for scientific analysis.
The Bio-Monitor system is scheduled to launch into space in .
Carré Technologies of Montreal, Quebec, developed Bio-Monitor for the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). Two additional Canadian companies lent their support:
- CALM Technologies (of Kingston, Ontario)
- engineering assistance to send the Bio-Monitor to space
- Xiphos Technologies (of Montreal, Quebec)
- a processor card that sends data from the ISS to Earth
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