MIT Researchers Create Algorithm For Monitoring Heart Rate Through RF Data Analysis


Researchers working in MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory have unveiled an innovative new technology that they hope may provide hospitals with the ability to monitor the movement, respiration rates, and heart rates of multiple patients in a room, completely wirelessly. The new technology is the latest advancement in a project being led by MIT professor Dina Katabi, a 2013 McArthur Genius Grant recipient cited as “a leader in accelerating our capacity to communicate high volumes of information securely without restricting mobility.”

Katabi is the director of the MIT Center for Wireless Networks and Mobile Computing, a division of the Computer Science Lab. It is here that she is leading researchers who are using RF signals to digitally map and then monitor confined spaces. The project began with the goal of transmitting low-power RF signals, and then analyzing disruptions in the waveforms to wirelessly monitor movement in a room. In 2013, researchers announced that they had accomplished that goal, having created algorithms capable of detecting movements as subtle as 10 cm.

This week, researchers published a technical paper announcing that they have further refined their algorithms and that they are now able to reliably pick up on movements as subtle as several millimeters, simply by analyzing changes in RF waveforms. The team is picking up movements so subtle that the technology has been successfully deployed to monitor respiration rate, and even heart rate, with a measured 99 percent accuracy. The technology can also differentiate between up to four people co-existing in the same room, without losing the ability to track the individual vitals of each person.

The technology that powers the system is also incredibly low cost and easy to manufacture, which means that it could have real-world applications in a broad range of industries, including healthcare which could benefit by passively monitoring rooms of patients for falls, or variances in vital signs. The system reportedly works through walls as well, meaning that bathrooms and corridors could be included in the footprint of a patient’s room.

Researchers are also looking into ways of introducing the technology to help firefighters and emergency responders find survivors, and keep track of each other, during rescue operations. Computer scientists are working with the team to explore the feasibility of using the technology to power high accuracy gesture control as a user interface for next-generation computer systems.

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