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Tune in to your heart beat

3 November 2010
What if monitoring your heart rate was as easy as listening to music? Thanks to advances in space technology, an iPhone will soon be able to keep you tuned in to your favourite artists as well as your pulse.

Until now, athletes and fitness fanatics have usually worn uncomfortable chest belts if they wanted accurate readings of their heart rate. However, this is about to change with the introduction of Pulsear, a tiny device made by Swiss company CSEM. Pulsear is fitted inside a normal earphone. It works by sending infrared signals through the tissues in your ear.
Check your heart rate on your phone
 
A very small sensor records the results and sends them through earphone wires to a unit that plugs into a phone. An iPhone application displays the heart rate on the screen. It is also possible to compare one day’s heart-thumping hike or run with a previous exercise stint. Subjects who tested the app during daily activities and fitness training rated the device highly.

The breakthrough technology was designed for ESA, as part of a complex chest sensor for measuring astronauts’ blood oxygen levels. With a grant from the ESA Technology Transfer Programme, CSEM was then able to create the prototype Pulsear.

While the current version measures only heart rate, it could easily be adapted to measure additional vital signs, such as blood oxygen levels. This would open up a number of medical applications. For example, it could be a user-friendly way to monitor patients with lung conditions.

"You can just say, 'go ahead, listen to the music', and meanwhile you can keep track of their vital signs," said CSEM’s Dr. Andrea Ridolfi.

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