GE develops wireless sensing platform for neonatal and home health monitoring

15 March 2009

GE Global Research, the technology development arm of GE (NYSE: GE), has announced that it has adapted its sensors for home security into an innovative, intelligent wireless medical sensing platform. If successful, this new platform could dramatically improve neonatal and home patient monitoring.

GE researchers have developed sophisticated signal processing algorithms for a wireless sensor that can classify different types of motion and closely monitor a person’s breathing and heart rate.

This type of sensor could have advantages in monitoring premature babies in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Premature infants have very sensitive and fragile skin, which can make it difficult to directly attach sensors to them. GE’s new sensor could wirelessly monitor an infant’s movements, including breathing and heart rate. Similarly, this sensor could be installed in a home for elder care or other outpatient monitoring.

The research is being done through a grant from the National Institute of Justice’s (NIJ) Sensors and Surveillance Group, which is leading a program to develop new security sensing solutions that can more effectively monitor prisoners in correctional facilities.

Jeffrey Ashe, an electrical engineer at GE Global Research and the Principal Investigator on the sensing project, said, “We have essentially built a more sophisticated brain for an existing GE sensor that can tell whether someone is moving or motionless and whether an individual is breathing or not breathing. One of the most promising applications of this new technology could be in neonatal infant health monitoring. We have seen considerable interest from the medical community in having this type of wireless sensing capability to monitor the well-being of infants under intensive care.”

Ashe added, “GE’s sensing technology could enable new applications in elder and outpatient care as well by enabling remote monitoring of the health and well-being of a patient and loved one.”

GE’s wireless sensing research is all part of the company’s Early Health initiative, which is focused on enabling earlier diagnosis and more effective treatments of disease and other health-related issues.

It is also focused on making care more patient focused by providing more opportunities to bring care to the patient. The hope is to spot symptoms or potential problems at earlier stages, perhaps even before the patient realizes a health issue exists. Having a sensing platform that can wirelessly track a person’s vital signs in the home is just the kind of tool that can help create this type of care environment.

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