Sensors - Underpinning Success of Connected Health


Rapid medical developments of the 20th century have enabled people in the 21st century to have a greater life expectancy. Technology is constantly offering more efficient ways to meet the needs of the current healthcare system.


imageAn aging world population dictates that healthcare systems have to treat an increasing number of patients with various states of chronic illnesses. Technology can be implemented to address the increased workload on clinical staff and hospital systems. One such area of application is the undertaking of routine medical observations. Recent miniaturisation and commercial viability of wireless monitors for in-patients, offers the potential to reduce this labour-intensive practice and release staff to partake in other important strategic areas of nursing practice.

Professors McLaughlin, Anderson and McAdams have a 25 year history of developing successful patent exploitation in the area of medical sensors and electro-stimulation devices, following the impact that Pantridge, Adgey and Anderson had on mobile coronary care in Northern Ireland.

imageThis more recent work has been commercialised to companies such as Heartsine Inc., Intelesens Ltd. , Heartscape Inc. (sold to Verathron), Tyco (licensed the biggest selling disposable ecg electrode), SHL Telemedicine (sub-licensed telemedicine products), Phillips and Air Products.

These companies’ products have now been well established and include the world’s best selling disposable ecg electrode, telemedicine based 12-lead electrodes, the most compact AED and a smart wireless chest based ecg, respiration rate, temperature and SpO2 monitor. The impact is now at a global level and all these three connected health spin-out companies have global sales, that impact on both well-being of patients and economic savings especially related to patient care.

In recent years, and following his important role as a panel chair in MATRIX, Professor McLaughlin’s over-arching strategy is aimed at developing a strong and well funded Engineering Research Capability, particularly in the area of Connected Health within the University of Ulster.

Professors McLaughlin’s, Anderson and McAdams work at NIBEC has been shown to have paved the way forward via a wearable patch based vital signs monitoring portable AED’s and now exploitable point-of-care blood monitoring.

This work involves linking bioengineering, clinical institutions (MGH, local and UK Hospitals) and computing sciences with smart sensor technology developed within NIBEC and thus providing clinically-led research initiatives to benefit the healthcare sector. New silver-silver colloid inks were developed, that were customised for flexible substrates and printed with patented and unique annulus designs, thus producing a low cost technique that was licensed to Tyco to become the world’s biggest selling ecg disposable electrode.

imageThis technology then formed the basis for the setting up of NIRAD (which became Meridian Medical and then Heartscape). New NIBEC patented designs were used within this company to create a range of telemedicine products (Dry electrode ECG monitor, Wallet Based Electrode System and dry-electrode Holter monitors) and this technology was eventually licensed to one of the world’s first connected Health companies, SHL Telemedicine and eventually Phillips Medical [5].

imageWith this underpinning McLaughlin (CSO), Anderson (CTO) and McAdams founded Intelesens in 2001. Within this company the aim was to integrate smart algorithms for arrhythmia (2008) and motion detection (2008), along with temperature, respiration rate (impedance based) (2008) and all on a miniaturised wireless chest worn platform. After raising over £5M of investment, with strategic partnerships with Intel (2008), Mondo and a major healthcare multinational (2011), and other patient monitoring companies, the company now develops a further range of products, involving Chest worn SpO2, pulse wave velocity and e-nose technology.This has led to a much raised valuation for Intelesens and staffing levels will rise back to 30 personnel in 2012.

In 2011 the company won the prestigious "Most Promising Technology Award" at the 4th Annual Silicon Valley Technology Leaders Awards and the same year Intelesens was awarded class 2 regulatory approval by the FDA authorities in the USA.

imageOther pioneering research has led to a separate company called Heartsine, whereby NIBEC-based chest impedance and arrhythmia algorithms, in conjunction with key bi-phasic waveforms have allowed the world’s most compact AED to be developed raising the company’s value significantly.

Much of this work of Intelesens and Heartsine has been validated by the EPSRC IRC MATCH Centre (Meenan 2010) and published work demonstrates up to 30% cost savings associated with syncope patients and in the case of AED’s key algorithms save up to 20% more patients.


Engineering Futures and Dr Steve Myers Talk

Monday 23rd of February 2015

Engineering Futures and Dr Steve Myers Talk

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Tuesday 10th of February 2015

Inaugural Professorial Lecture by Tony Byrne, Professor of Photocatalysis

Inaugural Professorial Lecture by Tony Byrne, Professor of Photocatalysis

When & where Wednesday, 22 October 2014 18:30 at the Jordanstown campus Lecture Theatre 9F03

NIBEC Lecture Series begins in mid - October