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Waterproof Electrocardiogram Sensor Designed to Prevent Heart Attacks

The device was developed by RMIT University in Australia and promises a highly wearable, user-friendly design

Scarlett Evans

November 6, 2023

2 Min Read
The dry electrodes (foreground), dressing and Bluetooth module that form parts of the RMIT ECG device
The dry electrodes (foreground), dressing and Bluetooth module that form parts of the RMIT ECG deviceSeamus Daniel, RMIT University

A new lightweight, waterproof electrocardiogram (ECG) sensor has been developed to provide real-time heart monitoring to help manage cardiovascular disease and prevent heart attacks.

Designed by a team of engineers from RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, the novel sensor is small enough to fit in the palm of a hand and uses thin “dry” electrodes that attach to a wearer’s chest, which the team says enables a more user-friendly and comfortable design. 

An ECG sensor works by monitoring electrical impulses produced by the heart when it contracts and relaxes, storing data on these cycles to identify irregularities early. 

Typically, these devices use “wet” electrodes which have a layer of conductive gel on them to increase cardiac signals. “Dry” electrodes, by contrast, do not need this gel to operate and, according to the team, improve the device’s comfort and wearability.

“Commercially available wearable ECG devices are usually bulky, heavy and have 12 ‘wet’ electrodes connecting the patient to the device,” said Madhu Bhaskaran, study co-author. “Wet electrodes are uncomfortable, dry out over time and have been known to cause skin irritation,

“[Our] device has just three ‘dry’ electrodes that are almost invisibly thin, can sense even the slightest signals of a heart in distress, and can also be recycled.”

Related:Wearable Sensor Provides Real-Time Cardiac Imaging

Peter Elango, lead author, also said because the electrodes are waterproof they can  be worn during activities such as swimming and showering. The device can also be worn on harder-to-reach parts of the body such as the neck, meaning wearers with impaired memory function won’t remove them.

“These attributes make them ideal for continuous monitoring – a crucial feature for wearable ECG devices,” said Elango.

The device can sense even small changes to a heartbeat and the RMIT team said it outperforms similar heart monitoring devices on the market.

“The dry electrodes, which are less than one-tenth the width of a human hair, are highly sensitive to the cardiac signals of the user,” said Elango.

The compact device has potential applications in remote health care and ambulatory care settings, helping monitor and prevent heart attacks for people with cardiovascular disease.

“Nearly half of the people who have heart attacks do not realize what’s happening until it’s too late,” said Elango. “My dream is a world with zero preventable heart attacks.”

RMIT has filed an international patent application for the ECG device and the team is in the process of bringing the design into commercialization.

About the Author(s)

Scarlett Evans

Assistant Editor, IoT World Today

Scarlett Evans is the assistant editor for IoT World Today, with a particular focus on robotics and smart city technologies. Scarlett has previous experience in minerals and resources with Mine Australia, Mine Technology and Power Technology. She joined Informa in April 2022.

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