2017/02/21 - UPC (ISI grup) patents system for cardiovascular pre-diagnosis—in under a minute—based on contact with user’s hands or feet

The Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC) has patented an affordable, easy-to-use electrocardiograph that can provide a cardiovascular pre-diagnosis in less than a minute. It is the first system to measure both the electrical activity of the heart (electrocardiogram) and its mechanical activity (arterial pulse wave) based on data collected via two metal sensors in contact with the user’s hands or feet. The prototype has already been granted patents in Spain, the United States and China, and applications have also been filed in Europe, Japan, Korea and India. The system will be presented next week at the Mobile World Congress, along with other projects that reflect the University’s technological capabilities

CardioSense will be presented at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, where the CIGO! smart mobility platform will also be showcased

[view more images]


Cardiovascular diseases caused three out of every ten deaths in 2012. According to the World Health Organization, that translates into a total of 17.5 million deaths. Many of these tragic outcomes could be prevented through early diagnosis, but the equipment used for cardiovascular diagnosis is usually complex to use and unaffordable for most people.

Now, researchers with the UPC’s Instrumentation, Sensors and Interfaces (ISI) Group, led by Ramon Pallàs, have patented an electrocardiograph that provides a cardiovascular pre-diagnosis in less than 60 seconds. The results are more accurate than those offered by existing devices and can be communicated to medical professionals from any place where there is mobile phone coverage.

Known as CardioSense, this “sentinel” for the heart detects the electrocardiogram signal (the signal generated by heart activity) and the arterial pulse wave (an indicator of arterial elasticity). Measurements are taken by placing two metal sensors in contact with the user’s hands or feet. The sensors can be integrated in a mobile phone or tablet case, watch strap, bathroom scales, steering wheel, handlebars or any wireless technology device that can be picked up, held and touched with both hands or feet at the same time.

The new system can also be incorporated in other devices that use similar sensors, such as body composition analysers that take measurements from sensors that are held in each hand or built into scales. Scales are also an option for CardioSense since readings can be taken through the feet, which opens up the possibility of applying the technology in scales located in pharmacies.

Pioneer in analysing the mechanics of the heart

cardiosense.Small electrocardiographs are already available on the market. These handheld devices can be used to obtain electrocardiograms conveniently at home and transmit readings to a monitoring centre. They are used for postoperative monitoring of patients and periodic checking of people at high risk of a cardiovascular event. The method patented by the UPC differs from existing options in one important respect. It is the first system which, in addition to obtaining an electrical signal, provides information on the mechanical functioning of the heart and the main arteries (the arterial pulse wave, which reaches a point between the heart and the area the sensors are in contact with). The time lag between the ECG signal and the arrival of the pulse wave is a good indicator of the contractility of the heart (its ability to contract in one dimension and expand in others) and the elasticity of arteries. Compared to existing electrocardiographs, the new device thus offers complementary information without being any more technically complex or difficult to use.

CardioSense has other advantages too: it can be used without the help of a health professional; it is not necessary to apply any gel or cream; and no part of the device needs to be in contact with the chest or any part of the body other than the hands or feet. The diagnostic reading can be communicated to medical specialists from any place where there is mobile phone coverage.

CardioSense will be presented at this year’s Mobile World Congress, which will run from 27 February to 2 March at Fira Gran Via in Barcelona. The prototype and its capabilities will be showcased on Thursday 2 March at the Brokerage Event (organised by ACCIÓ, a department of the Catalan Ministry of Enterprise and Labour), in Congress Square, Hall 5, CS50, behind the Catalonia Pavilion. The event brings together professionals, organisations and companies interested in presenting or finding out about new products and services.

A laboratory prototype of the device has already been tested on 15 volunteers, and it has been patented in Spain, the United States and China. Patent applications have also been filed in Europe, Japan, South Korea and India. Preparations are under way for a preclinical validation study involving various groups, including patients with cardiovascular risks from the Physiology Unit of the Department of Physiological Sciences, which is part of the Bellvitge Health Sciences Campus of the University of Barcelona.

The UPC’s portfolio of patents at MWC

CardioSense is not the only innovative technology from its portfolio of patents that the UPC will present to companies participating in the Brokerage Event. Others include a bioleaching system to reuse scrap from mobile phones and other electronic waste, and a device for modulating the phase of an optical signal based on graphene.

In the field of cybersecurity, inLab—which belongs to the UPC’s Barcelona School of Informatics (one of the research centres that make up the Innovation and Technology Centre, CIT)—is planning to showcase its expertise and contact organisations interested in taking part in BIG IoT, a European project on the Internet of Things that inLab is participating in. Apart from computer security, the University will also show off its technological capabilities in relation to multimedia content, apps, artificial intelligence and games, smart cities and augmented reality and mobility and eHealth.

Smart mobility platform

The spin-off Sparsity Technologies, which will have a stand of its own at the event (also in Congress Square, at CS50-31, Hall 5), and the UPC’s Data Management Group, led by researcher Josep Lluís Larriba, will be talking to people about CIGO!, a smart mobility platform that can integrate any kind of data, such as information about air pollution, noise pollution and traffic conditions, to give just a few examples. Users can view all this information on their mobile devices. The technology makes it possible to deploy mobility policies in real time to boost operational efficiency in companies and cities and improve quality of life for citizens.

CIGO! offers major innovations, including customisation of mobile–web app interaction and processing of data using graph technology, which dramatically speed up data analysis.

cigo! tourism.Two different applications have been developed. The first, CIGO! Delivery Management, incorporates a highly versatile route optimisation algorithm that can take into account factors such as the number of delivery points, vehicle capacity, number of warehouses, delivery times, and so on. Great care has been put into designing the real-time interaction between the web platform and the app.

The second application is CIGO! Tourism, a platform and app that provides users with offline access to tourist information and personalised city routes based on their preferences. The system administrator can see how tourists using the app move around the city and find out, for example, if they have used public transport options, or whether the recommended points of interest are indeed interesting to the people who visit them.