Scalable Wireless Alert Generator

Neonatal Vital-Signs Monitoring System for Developing-World Clinics


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Membership level
2012-2013 Team
Team Name
Scalable Wireless Alert Generator
Project Title
Neonatal Vital-Signs Monitoring System for Developing-World Clinics
Design Challenge
Our team seeks to build a scalable, affordable, easy to use, and robust vital signs monitoring system for use in a third world clinical setting. Our device should respond to the needs of these clinics, meeting their price constraints and allowing for flexible expansion as new capabilities become available.
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Design Summary
Hospitals in the developing world suffer from over-taxation and under-staffing. Lack of sufficient staff on hand, unreliable electricity, and nonexistent or ill-maintained patient monitoring equipment in these hospitals and clinics means that medical personnel face difficulty locating patients in distress. A centralized unit that records data from various connected patient monitors and presents the data in an easily intelligible format will allow nurses to quickly and correctly identify patients in need of speedy assistance and respond accordingly, potentially revolutionizing the quality of care in third-world settings.

This system is being deployed in the developing world scenario. Consequently, additional factors must be taken into consideration. These are:
• Low cost to ensure economic viability of project
• Limited technical expertise of hospital workers in Malawi
• Intermittent power in areas of deployment
• NICU will be over-packed resulting in space constraints.

To simplify our design model, we have broken our project into 3 different sub-challenges:
• Wired (Bus) communication and processing power: We must make sure that the cost per module is less than $200 per brick and sensor system. Also, the design time cannot exceed 2 semesters of work.
• Wireless topology. The most important objectives here are low latency (information must reach the tablet in less than 20s) and the scalability of the protocol (it must allow more than 10 bricks to be connected to the tablet at the same time
• Tablet Interface. The nurse should easily be able to read status from 5 feet away and the interface should be intuitive enough for a sample of adults to learn how to use it in less than 5 minutes.
The CMC lab at Rice University has already developed a low-cost wireless module that has integrated an MSP430 with Bluetooth (2.0 & 4.0). We will be able to repurpose this device from its current use of relaying data from only one sensor at a time to a device that can relay multiple sensor data to the central tablet. Currently, the tablet interface they have implemented only supports one wireless module connected at a time. Our plan is to scale this up to allow multiple bricks to connect to it at the same time.

Using the existing framework, we have been able to implement software and hardware changes that will allow us to add multiple sensors to a single system brick. We have also created a prototype tablet interface that allows us to connect 2 bricks at a time to the tablet. Our testing will progress next semester by identified any bandwidth constraints at each stage of our information pipeline. The design will iterate through testing, constantly improving so we can make our device more rugged.
Rice Electrical and Computer Engineering
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  • Electrical and Computer Engineering
Faculty Advisor 1 - Name
Ashu Sabharwal

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Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen - Rice University

6100 Main Street MS 390 | Houston, Texas | 77005

Phone: 713.348.OEDK


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