Feature | July 17, 2012

The Offbeat: Your Car as Your Doctor

Car seat sensors may someday diagnose heart attacks and arrhythmias

An unusual exhibitor that seemed very out of place on the expo floor of the Heart Rhythm Society 2012 annual meeting was Ford Motor Company.  Engineers, standing next to a brand new Ford sport utility vehicle,  were there to get feedback from electrophysiologists on the use of car seats that can automatically monitor the driver’s electrocardiogram (ECG) whenever they are driving. 

A joint project undertaken by experts from Ford’s European Research and Innovation Centre in Aachen, Germany and Rheinisch-Westfalische Technische Hochschule (RWTH) Aachen University, the seat uses six special embedded sensors to detect electrical impulses generated by the heart. 

“Although currently still a research project, the heart rate monitor technology developed by Ford and RWTH Aachen University could prove to be a hugely important breakthrough for Ford drivers, and not just in terms of the ability to monitor the hearts of those known to be at risk,” said Dr. Achim Lindner, Ford European Research and Innovation Centre medical officer.

“As always in medicine, the earlier a condition is detected, the easier it is to treat, and this technology even has the potential to be instrumental in diagnosing conditions drivers were previously unaware they had,” he said. 

Data collected by the sensors, for example, could be analyzed by medical experts or onboard computer software. Possibilities therefore abound, notes Lindner, from linking to remote medical services and Ford vehicle safety systems, to even providing real-time health information and alerts of imminent cardiovascular issues such as a heart attack. 

The heart rate monitor seat is the latest addition in the Ford research portfolio of possible in-car health and wellness solutions aimed at helping people with chronic illnesses or medical disorders manage their condition while on the go. 

The seat sensor technology under development could initially be of most benefit to drivers known to have heart conditions – primarily those in more mature age groups, a globally growing population. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of Americans aged 65 and older is projected to more than double by 2050, reaching some 88.5 million. Predictions in Europe suggest a growing trend as well, with the over-65 population reaching nearly 23 percent by 2025 and 30 percent by 2050. 

Working with RWTH Aachen University, Ford developed the six-sensor system positioned on the surface of the seat backrest. The unobtrusive electrodes have been specially designed to be able to detect the electronic signature of the heart through clothing. “The sensors use a very specially designed system and carefully researched materials to be able to give a good signal without contact on the skin,” Lindner said. 

“We are still fine-tuning their operation to work with some materials; certain types of synthetic fabric and lamb’s wool can cause electrical interference that upsets the signal, but we can achieve a strong signal through 10 layers of cotton,” he said. 

In stationary testing, 90 to 95 percent of subjects proved to be compatible and on-road testing of the Ford heart rate monitoring seat proved it was possible to achieve highly accurate readings for up to 98 percent of the time spent behind the wheel, even at this early stage of development.  

Related Content

3-D Vascular Ultrasound Quantifies Plaque Burden to Estimate Cardiovascular Risk
News | Cardiovascular Ultrasound| July 20, 2017
July 20, 2017 — In a large, first-of-its-kind population, researchers found an experimental technique known as...
More Than 20 Percent of Low-Risk Patients Receive Annual ECG
News | ECG| July 20, 2017
July 20, 2017 — More than one in five Ontario patients receive an ...
Alere point of care POC testing for INR
News | Point of Care Testing| July 17, 2017 | Dave Fornell
July 17, 2017 — Despite issues with point-of-care INR testing company Alere Inc., Abbott announced this week it is on
Cardiologs ECG Analysis Platform Receives FDA Clearance
Technology | ECG Monitoring Services| July 13, 2017
Cardiologs Technologies SAS announced that it has received U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) clearance of its...
Sponsored Content | Videos | Business| July 13, 2017
Randall Thompson, M.D., professor of medicine at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, attending cardiologist, Mid
iRhythm and Stanford Researchers Develop Deep Learning-Based Cardiac Arrhthymia Detection Algorithm
News | Artificial Intelligence| July 11, 2017
iRhythm Technologies Inc. announced a collaboration with the Stanford Machine Learning Group that has resulted in the...
Patient Race, Gender Both Important in Predicting Heart Attack Symptoms in the ER
News | Cath Lab| July 07, 2017
Researchers at the George Washington University (GW) found that certain symptoms are more and less predictive of...
Greater Emphasis Needed on Preventing, Treating Heart Disease in Women
News | Womens Healthcare| July 06, 2017
Women and physicians do not put enough emphasis on cardiovascular disease in women, and a social stigma regarding body...
Heartflow FFR-CT can noninvasively assess the hemodynamic impact of coronary lesions to avoid the need for an invasive angiogram.

HeartFlow FFR-CT can noninvasively assess the hemodynamic impact of coronary lesions to avoid the need for an invasive angiogram.

Technology | CT Angiography (CTA)| July 06, 2017
July 6, 2017 — GE Healthcare and HeartFlow Inc.
Overlay Init