The USS Enterprise Does It Again

The Star Trek Universe has inspired many modern technologies, from transparent aluminum (aluminum oxynitride or ALON) to communicators (smartphones) to AI (Majel Barret is the best) and more. If you want a rundown, ask a Trekkie and brace yourself.

Researchers at the University of Waterloo have developed another bit of tech that could have come straight out of the medical bay of the USS Enterprise.

The team used radar technology to monitor people’s health while driving, turning their vehicle into a mobile medical hub. They published their research, “Multibin Breathing Pattern Estimation by Radar Fusion for Enhanced Driver Monitoring,” in IEEE Transactions on Instrumentation and Measurement.

The scientists found that integrating radar with evolving automotive technology made health checks easier by gathering health data for accurate analysis and proactive treatment without a wearable. The radar tech, smaller than a USB drive, is integrated into the vehicle cabin and sends signals that detect human vibration, then return to the radar. AI collects and performs analysis on the data to identify conditions, and the results are sent to cell phones. This builds off the technology that used radar for child and pet detection six years ago.

Their challenge was getting the technology to identify changes in breathing patterns or heart rhythms that signify health issues related to cardiovascular and respiratory system conditions. They needed to teach the AI how to make medical interpretations. Also at the forefront were personal privacy and security, so no data was stored on the cloud, only on the monitored person’s cellphone.

The system has also been validated to accurately detect and identify heart conditions. Next, they will expand the radar to monitor all of the vehicle’s occupants, flag issues that need attention, or assist with emergency communication should an accident occur. 

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