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FEATURE WEARABLE TECH & BIOMETRICS Can you feel it? Ultrasound vitals monitoring on the skin


of this, it also examines the electric fields it induces (like an electrocardiogram), sees the hear’ts beat itself and analyses its mechanics. The key breakthrough for these devices


Vitals monitoring does not need to be clunky or invasive. Steve Stoffels, chief system designer, and Xavier Rottenberg, scientific director at Pulsify Medical, a joint Imec and KU Leuven spin-off, are introducing a new wearable ultrasound device


P


ulsify Medical’s new wearable device has been developed to allow images


to be taken from inside the body, both automatically and continuously. The solution distinguishes itself from existing ultrasound techniques as it offers a large area and a low-cost flexible patch, which, through a combination of hardware and software, will allow for the automated extraction of physiological parameters without the need for intervention by a trained professional. The Pulsify patch will translate ultrasound devices from a diagnostic into a monitoring solution. Ultrasound is a field ripe for progression. Most people are familiar with the traditional ultrasound machines that are used in the hospital, used to take images of unborn babies. There are, however, many more applications for ultrasound in hospitals. This includes imaging most organs in the human body. Currently, ultrasound is mainly used as a diagnostic tool. This implies that the specialist already has a good idea of what needs to be examined inside the body, and thus makes an image of an organ or checks the status of a fetus during the visit to a clinic. In practice, a very experienced and trained individual is needed to operate an ultrasound machine


36 MARCH 2020 | ELECTRONICS


as it requires expertise to be able to place the probe on the correct location and capture the key points of interest inside the body.


Conventional ultrasound tools make use of piezoelectric crystals to generate the ultrasound waves and receive the reflected signals from inside the body. Piezoelectric crystals are relatively large and are difficult to combine with an integrated circuit, which ultimately limits the size of these machines. There is an ongoing evolution to make these sensors much more compact and integrate them together with the receive electronics. These types of compact


“The idea arose to make a smart, flexible patch that can be attached to the body, large enough to cover a whole organ...”


ultrasound systems will allow ultrasound to be used as a point-of-care (POC) system, e.g. in the ambulance; at the site of an accident; in the emergency room, but also much more widely by general practitioners or by people at home. In this way, POC ultrasound (POCUS) gives physicians an alternative to the traditional stethoscope – a diagnosis of the heart that isn’t based solely on the sounds it produces. Instead


is the use of an integrated micro- fabricated ultrasound transducer array, which can be cointegrated with other electronics. However, these POCUS systems, even though portable and affordable, still require a trained health professional to acquire the right data and interpret the results. As a consequence, measurements can only be made occasionally and by a trained expert, thereby disabling the possibility for ubiquitous and longer-term monitoring. Therefore, the idea arose to make a smart, flexible patch that can be attached to the body, large enough to cover a whole organ. With smart algorithms, the patch will monitor physiological parameters inside the body over time. There is a real need for such a non-invasive monitoring tool in the intensive care unit (ICU), where the occurrence of acute events can put the patient at risk. Our medical patch can reduce these risks, by monitoring vital organ functions in a non-invasive way, thanks to smart algorithms.” Pulsify Medical has licensed and will build upon the unique and IP-protected technology portfolio of the two founding laboratories, Imec and K.U. Leuven. Imec’s technology is specific for the design and fabrication of a novel type of micromachined ultrasound transducer array, making use of flexible materials and integrated with part of the control electronics. Together, Imec and Pulsify Medical will optimise this device for


the specific requirements envisioned for the product line. K.U. Leuven, on the other hand, has licensed key IP and know-how on ultrasound transducer steering, image reconstruction and extraction of physiological parameters. This software lies at the core of the automated monitoring capabilities of our products. K.U. Leuven and Pulsify Medical will join hands to further develop and optimise these algorithms for the products.


Pulsify Medical www.pulsify-medical.com / ELECTRONICS


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