Christian Hofmann, Group Manager at Fraunhofer IIS, is working on the development of “CardioTEXTIL”: a textile-integrated sensor system that conveniently enables continuous monitoring of cardiac activity. #WeKnowHow
CardioTEXTIL – The ECG as a “second skin”
How can cardiac activity be measured in a simple, integrated way and, above all, conveniently and comfortably? The answer is simple: with a wearable ECG that fits like a second skin. This may sound futuristic, but it is already a reality in the Medical Sensor Systems Group at the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS. Scientists led by Christian Hofmann in Erlangen have developed CardioTEXTIL, which works like a conventional long-term ECG but feels much more comfortable on the body: four dry electrodes at the level of the collarbone and lower chest have been integrated into a setup similar to the carrying straps of a backpack. Its distinct design and special elastic materials ensure good skin contact and thus reliable signal quality, while also providing a very high level of wearing comfort – roughly equivalent to that of a snug-fitting T-shirt. In addition, CardioTEXTIL is designed to be suitable for anyone and does not require gender-specific adjustments.
Mobile monitoring: An ECG “to go”
Thanks to wireless data transmission, CardioTEXTIL is suitable for the continuous monitoring of cardiac function at home and also as an event recorder when the wearer is on the move. The ECG data is transmitted via Bluetooth from the sensor to a relay and from there via the Internet or mobile communications directly to a doctor for evaluation along the lines of telemedicine. Based on this assessment, further steps can be initiated or, in an emergency, even first-aid measures can be taken.
Decentralized surveillance and monitoring – Further development in the M3Infekt project
Because it offers decentralized monitoring of cardiac activity, CardioTEXTIL is being further developed as part of the M3Infekt project headed by Christian Münzenmayer. M3Infekt deals with various medical sensor technologies that enable decentralized monitoring of health parameters. CardioTEXTIL is a particularly good example of a technology that ensures medically reliable monitoring in everyday life while being convenient to use – for example, in examining arrhythmias. In this context, the neuromorphic hardware research area at Fraunhofer IIS also plays a major role. With a neuromorphic design, ECG analysis ought to be possible as an “on chip” feature, i.e. in the electronics. Since it would mean ECG data no longer needed to be sent to a cloud for processing, such a solution is attractive, especially from a data security perspective. However, that is still some way off in the future – the next step is to complete the clinical trials.
The pandemic use case
CardioTEXTIL also offers a great deal of potential when it comes to patient behavior during the COVID-19 pandemic. “In recent months, many patients – including those with acute conditions who experience cardiovascular changes – have shied away from going to a hospital due to fear of infection and have stayed at home despite their symptoms. Emergencies resulting from this behavior can be prevented if they wear CardioTEXTIL,” Hofmann explains. Developing it into a medical device will take another one to two years.