Sensors Central


Sensors Help Advance Health Care


Several recent announcements have described sensors for faster, less costly, and less intrusive disease detection as well as other types of health care. In the former category, the new superDimension/Bronchus System (SDBS) works like a GPS, letting physicians navigate toward suspicious masses throughout the lungs in real time. The technology enables a minimally invasive procedure for more accurate and earlier diagnosis of lung masses. Standard bronchoscopy cannot reach the periphery of the lungs where most masses are located, but SDBS can. (

Another promising new technology provides quick and inexpensive assessment of urinary tract infections (UTIs). A UCLA clinical study used a biosensor by GeneFluidics to correctly identify the infection-causing gram-negative bacteria species in 98% of tested samples—within 45 minutes. (,

CardioMEMS' EndoSure sensor monitors pressure within aneurysms
CardioMEMS' EndoSure sensor monitors pressure within aneurysms

A third, Masimo Rainbow's Rad-57 Pulse CO-Oximeter, has won the Society for Technology in Anesthesia's 2006 Application of Technology award. A University of Arizona study evaluated the device's ability to directly measure the effects of CO inhalation and concluded that it represents a major advance over current methods. The portable Rad-57 uses light for noninvasive measurement using a finger clip. (


Patient Monitoring From the Inside Out


The FDA has approved CardioMEMS Inc.'s EndoSure implantable wireless sensor for testing blood pressure in people with an abdominal aortic aneurysm—ruptures of which rank as the 13th leading cause of death in the U.S. Patients require lifetime monitoring; traditional methods are expensive and time consuming, and reveal only the size of an aneurysm, whereas EndoSure monitors its crucial internal pressure. (,

Another device, this one a heart and respiration rate monitor (HRRM), can also identify and locate individuals who wander and is hoped to aid facilities whose patients are prone to unintentionally leaving the premises. The location-tracking option uses wireless communication modules integral to the HRRM that Wireless 2000 is developing for its partner AMS Homecare. The HRRM fits beneath a patient's bed frame or behind the backrest of a wheelchair and patients can wear small location tags. A reader can automatically lock exit doors when it detects an approaching "wanderer." In the event that the monitored patient still manages to leave the premises, the system will alert the staff members, who can then track the patient outside using a handheld device. (,

An exclusive 20-year agreement allows AMS Homecare to apply Nemesysco's Layered Voice Analysis (LVA) technology to the North American residential and residential care security market. LVA analyzes sound wave frequencies of the human voice to provide an emotional/psychological profile of the speaker. AMS intends to incorporate the technology within its Integrated Emergency Response monitoring system and within a general home security system. The technology can reveal psychological parameters in the voice to determine degrees of deception, stress, voice manipulation and other traits, and can be used in conjunction with psychological testing to determine the health or risk of a patient. (,,


NAE Honors CCD Inventors with Prestigious Prize


On February 21, the National Academy of Engineering presented the coveted 2006 Charles Stark Draper Prize to Willard S. Boyle and George E. Smith, inventors of charge-coupled devices (CCDs), during a ceremony in Washington, DC. Boyle and Smith invented CCDs, the first practical solid-state imaging devices, in 1969. These imaging sensors convert light to digital data, and are essential to the workings of the Mars rovers, the Hubble Space Telescope, and various medical imaging devices. CCD technology launched the field of machine vision. (


Better Bomb Detection


A $2.4 million Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract focuses on an improved system to detect improvised explosive devices (IEDs). RF Monolithics Inc. is participating along with Nanotherapeutics Inc., which has patented a method of sensing trace amounts of certain non-nitrogen-based explosives. The method uses a portable, rapid gas chromatography system and surface acoustic wave (SAW) devices to detect specific IED materials, such as triacetone-triperoxide (TATP), the material recently implicated in the London bombings. In addition to commercializing Nanotherapeutics' invention, RF Monolithics will add wireless mesh network capability to create field-deployable arrays. (,,


VIASPACE subsidiary Arroyo Sciences Inc. is targeting suicide bombers with a patent application for its DEEPSCAN technology. DEEPSCAN is being developed as a real-time scanning system for detecting camouflaged explosives from hundreds of feet away. It combines high-resolution, high-sensitivity, long-wavelength IR detectors with proprietary sensor data fusion technology to identify "features of interest" based on differential emissivity. The technology is also suitable for run-of-the-mill theft detection. (


Heightened Profile for Nanotech?


During a hearing on the future of nanotechnology by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Altair Nanotechnologies president and CEO Alan J. Gotcher, PhD, urged increased federal funding, suggesting that nanotech be compared to the man-on-the-moon and human genome projects. "Private-sector participation is critical — federal funding to for-profit companies has to be accepted as a trade-off for their sharing of results," said Gotcher. (

Meanwhile, other developers announced and demonstrated new nano-based sensors. The Korean company Planet82 Inc. claims the first U.S. demonstration of an image sensor that uses nanotechnology to enable high-resolution photos or video in the dark without a flash. Planet82 says its Single Carrier Modulation Photo Detector (SMPD) is 2000 times more sensitive to light than other image sensors. The company used the principles of quantum mechanics to produce thousands of electrons from one photon. SMPDs can be produced using standard CMOS processes. (

And at the Nano Tech 2006 show in Tokyo, Nano-Proprietary Inc. subsidiary Applied Nanotech showed hydrogen and carbon monoxide sensors and biosensors based on enzyme-coated carbon nanotubes (CNTs). Nano Tech is reportedly the world's largest nanotechnology exhibit and conference, drawing approximately 45,000 visitors. (,

Finally, market research by NanoSensors Inc. shows that demand for sensors will grow rapidly over the next few years and that the Department of Homeland Security, foreign governments, and the private sector will demand security products and services. NanoSensors plans to create new paradigms for secure and safe military, homeland, and commercial venues. Its next generation of sensors will be based on porous silicon and CNT technology to detect explosives, chemicals, and biological agents at very low concentrations.



Wal-Mart Tests Sensor Networks


InformationWeek says that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is experimenting with sensor technology, pursuing two "proof-of-concepts" that would speed products to shelves and provide customers with better quality produce.


Technology for Trapped Miner Rescue


In Sensors' weblog, Today at Sensors, Executive Editor Stephanie Henkel has been calling for implementation of sensor technology in mining operations to address needless loss of life ( Thankfully, U.S. safety regulators are testing wireless systems that can be used to locate and communicate with trapped miners. An article at gives details:


Sensor Suggested VX Nerve Agent


The Washington Post reported that a false sensor reading triggered a three-hour evacuation of the Russell Senate Office Building in early February and marked the biggest nerve-agent scare yet at the Capitol complex.

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