CHENNAI: A small chip the size of a guitar pick, easily slipped into your pocket, could now act as your personal ECG! What more, if it could detect an Arrhythmia, myocardial infarction (heart attack), asthma and complicated arterial blocks only your doctor could otherwise.
The Indian Institute of Technology - Hyderabad and the Union Ministry of Information Technology have come out with a technology that promises to do just this - at low power and low cost, running on a simple battery.
“We got overwhelming results,” says Professor Amit Acharrya at IIT-Hyderabad, the brainchild behind the wearable technology that runs on the Internet of Things - allowing data from the chip to be sent to an internet enabled device and in this case, a phone.
Researchers have designed a device that sends out an alert to a phone even before the body starts showing symptoms of an attack or the onset of a condition.
“We achieved 92% accuracy in our trial runs. Only after that was I sure that this can be useful in the public health sphere,” says Acharrya, who along with his research team, has been working on this low-power Bluetooth connected chip since 2014. Since then, it has passed through a series of test runs by doctors in CARE Hospital, Hyderabad and by medical professionals in Italy.
But what sets it apart from other wearable tech doubling as heart monitors, in the Professor’s own words, is “the fact that you don’t need to constantly keep it switched on, wasting battery. The chip is intelligent enough to know when to power-on and power-off,” he explains. The details of the same, in simple clear detail, are compressed into byte-sized information and sent to the phone via Bluetooth.
The chip can detect inconsistencies in the heart rhythm up to 90 minutes before a cardiac arrest and sends an alert to the wearer, a caregiver and the nearest hospital.
This offers a lot of potential in diagnosing without the time and effort of going through hospitals, ringing close to Professor Acharrya’s view that affordable health-tech should be a key direction of innovation. Especially since, the device promises immense rural utility. “The largest problem in India’s villages is a very simple one. Too many people and too few doctors,” he says.
If things go according to plan, the chip could be used across Primary Health Centres in rural India most of which are short of doctors.
The low-cost, low power utility and ease of use might be at the core of this technology, says Acharrya, but more importantly, the removal of the need to be hospitalised to determine if a chest pain was just regular heartburn or a symptom of an impending disease, is what elevates its potential.
The Institute is currently in talks with start-ups across the country to expedite the process of bringing it on to the market.