A new way to illuminate the human condition


Before we dive in, I want to share three relevant quotes from Marshall McLuhan:

“We look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future.”

“When you are on the phone or on the air, you have no body.”

“Today each of us lives several hundred years in a decade.”

In the next ten years we will see a revolution in the way people view themselves. The body and its internal workings have been largely hidden and mysterious since the beginning of time. Physicians have functioned almost as spirit mediums, channeling the small voices originating in our internal organs.

As individuals, our ignorance of the physiological processes that sustain us leads to feel apprehensive about even small changes in the way we feel. People have little ability to recognize slow and steady changes in health until a threshold is crossed and symptoms start interfering with life. Without tools to understand ourselves, we turn away from self-monitoring and feel comfort in having health professionals manage the responsibility for us.

The AFE4400 Pulse Oximeter SoC will help open a new era of human health awareness. Worn health monitoring devices allowing communication of continuously acquired health data to Internet servers will change everything. The view of human health obtained using continuously acquired data has never been seen before. It will describe health in a way that is completely unfamiliar to medical science. It will reveal the human body as wildly dynamic in its efforts to maintain homeostasis on a moment-to-moment basis as well as highly predictable in identifying long term trends and foretelling impending disasters.

Wearing a personal health-monitoring device, continuously monitoring internal physiology, tracking activity, movement, posture, location and proximity to other individuals, will create a vision of life that will show each person how to optimize their health and live a long life.

The AFE4400 detects the arterial pulse wave. Pulse wave analysis, when used in combination with accelerometer data, allows monitoring of cardiovascular, respiratory, neurological, renal, musculoskeletal and gastrointestinal systems.

Activity monitoring devices available commercially, usually worn on the wrist or arm, use an accelerometer to monitor movement. They do not provide comprehensive insight into human physiology.  Devices built around the AFE4400 will create a portal, allowing visualization of physiology associated with all major organ systems.

Placement of the AFE4400 is critical in acquiring the arterial pulse signal with enough fidelity to extract subtle health information. The back of the wrist, under a wristwatch, is a challenging place for placement of the AFE4490 or other optical pulse sensors. The blood supply on the back of the wrist is poor and there is a lot of wrist movement creating noise that allows acquisition of heart rate but little more.

The value of obtaining continuous physiological monitoring for personal health insight will motivate people to wear a small optical patch sensor on the palm as shown in the drawing below. The patch could incorporate vitamins in its biocompatible adhesive martix, that would slowly be absorbed through the skin.

Hypothenar area is covered with cushioning tissues that attenuate motion noise, it lays over a flat bony plateau that minimizes motion effects and directly under the Hypothenar area is a large artery, the Ulnar Artery. The Hypothenar area is ideal for use with an optical pulse sensor. The Hypothenar sensor is fully described in the patent noted here.  

Shown below are optical pulse sensor electronics to be used with a Hypothenar sensor patch. A Photodiode, Infrared LED and Red LED are integrated into a single chip.

Using a Hypothenar sensor patch connected to a wristwatch (having a motion sensor, processor and wireless communications) allows continuous health monitoring with data flowing to an Internet server for processing and display.

Once data is stored on a server it becomes possible to use that data as the basis for an unlimited number of applications, apps that can be made available through an app marketplace with app developers competing for consumer dollars. This Darwinian process would motivate and inspire app developers to create valuable, intuitive and entertaining visualizations of human health that cannot be even imagined today. These apps can be used for the benefit of individuals or, when aggregated, describe the health and behaviours of people in neighbourhoods, cities, and entire populations. Imaging being able to see, on an hour-by-hour basis, Influenza epidemics sweep across a continent over the course of a few weeks. Apps could also demonstrate emotional responses as two people approach each other from across a room. The possibilities are endless.

As Marshall McLuhan noted, it is difficult for people to recognize the significance of new technology. Our understanding of human life and the health care process will change forever once individuals are given an ability to view their internal realities and manage health more effectively. There is a new form of media that will emerge, call it BioMedia, and we will each have our our own channel. Within a decade we will have become a species with a highly enhanced ability to treasure the gift of life we have been blessed with.

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  • I hope we collectively refuse to become part of the 'Internet of Things'.  This sort of private medical info being passed around the Apps marketplace will benefit Google, Facebook, etc. to the detriment of individuals.  It will become biometric click-through for marketing.  It will be used to screen potential employees as credit scores and social network profiles are now.  It will become yet another way we are marked for special rates and rejection.  Exercise spoofing Apps will be needed just to appear excellent enough to get a job.  We dare not indicate unpopular medical needs this way, so the data is useless ofr medical purposes.    

  • I hope we collectively refuse to become part of the 'Internet of Things'.  This sort of private medical info being passed around the Apps marketplace will benefit Google, Facebook, etc. to the detriment of individuals.  It will become biometric click-through for marketing.  It will be used to screen potential employees as credit scores and social network profiles are now.  It will become yet another way we are marked for special rates and rejection.  Exercise spoofing Apps will be needed just to appear excellent enough to get a job.  We dare not indicate unpopular medical needs this way, so the data is useless ofr medical purposes.    

  • The concern about "private medical info being passed around the Apps marketplace" is very real and of great significance. That is why any personal health monitoring system using server based resources would have to provide exceedingly secure data management. Personal health information would be under the absolute control of individuals. Just as medical records today can be released only after consent is obtained from the individual involved, online health records would have the same protection. Server based monitoring of continuously acquired biodata using worn biosensor technology will allow people to have a better understanding of their current and future health. There will not be a loss of a person's right to have their health records treated confidentially.

    Human health when seen from a perspective of continuously acquired biodata will appear radically different than health seen as clinical 'snapshots', widely separated in time. From this new perspective will emerge powerful ways for people to better care for themselves, feel better and live longer. The fear of becoming part of the 'Internet of Things' is misplaced. Server based analysis of continuously acquired biodata will lead each person to have a more intimate and effective understanding of their living physiology.