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Sudden impact wearable design wins Element14's first prize

11 Aug 2015  | Vivek Nanda

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Element14 recently concluded its Sudden Impact design competition in which 12 individuals from around the world competed to develop wearable health solutions that can detect and prevent sports-related injuries.

3 modules of the design

Figure 1: The design features a helmet unit that measures head impact, body temperature, tilt, global positioning and brain activity. An ECG chest module measures heart rate and both units send data to an Android smartphone app.

The winning design came from Cosmin Iorga of the United States, getting him the top prize comprising a Tektronix MD03104 oscilloscope valued at $13,900, a MacBook Air and a Withings Home HD Sensor.

Iorga's design features a main helmet unit that measures head impact, body temperature, tilt, global positioning and even brain activity. A separate ECG chest module measures heart rate and both units provide data and alerts to an Android smartphone app.

Iorga set out to measure an athlete's health conditions that require medical attention even when the symptoms are not immediately apparent to the athlete. He looked at some of the commercially available products so that his design wasn't addressing a problem that had already been solved. In his post at Element14, he says that many commercial products place an accelerometer on a helmet or directly on the head, measuring the force impact and transmitting the data through wireless connection to an app running on a phone. The products he looked at ranged from $50 to $200.

Identifying the need

Iorga notes that most commercial products measure the impact to the head and users decide to seek medical attention based on the measured impact. While there are various algorithms to help decide what impact is sufficiently high to be a potential problem, one threshold doesn't necessarily apply to all. Some athletes may be more sensitive than others. Some may have pre-existing heart conditions that should be taken into account.

Most existing products also use short-range wireless communications, like Wi-Fi ad Bluetooth. So the person monitoring wireless receiver/phone, usually relatives or friends, cannot effectively get the data in long-range sports like biking or hiking unless they are in close physical proximity to the athlete.

Iorga's solution

The winning solution is estimated to cost about $135 in low volume and about $50-$70 in high-volume production. The design brings the following new features to the user:

  • Post impact neurological assessment through real-time brain EEG and statistical assessment of body movement balance.
  • Increased communication range by using the cell phone network so that designated persons other than the athlete can get involved in taking the decision to seek medical attention.
  • Implementation of GPS location tracking for long range sports activities like biking, skiing and hiking, so that a Google map link of injury location is sent through SMS/text when an impact or health alarm is detected.

The main unit is in a helmet but Iorga says it can be miniaturised in production so that it sits in a head band. The unit measures impact to head, blood oxygen (pulse oximetry), heart rate, respiratory rate, body temperature, tilt, brain activity (EEG) and body movement balance for post impact neurological evaluation. There's also an ECG module that you can attach to your chest or your arm.

Iorga has devised an ingenious way to not only send an alarm and Google map link but health measurement data over the GSM voice channel. Watch the video below and head over to Iorga's blog here; it's a must-see!

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