3. Hyperspectral optical sensors
Hyperspectral cameras detect the reflected light of objects in very fine wavelength bands. These cameras can be used for applications such as checking the quality of foodstuffs, the composition of objects, etc. Imec is developing hyperspectral cameras based on CMOS technology. This will make them much more compact and cheaper than the types used today. It will also enable them to be used for a far broader range of applications.
With ordinary RGB cameras you can measure someone’s heart or respiration rate under certain conditions. With hyperspectral cameras you can do the same – but with much greater accuracy. You can do more things, too, such as measure the oxygen content in someone’s blood. This can be of value in hospitals or for baby monitoring at home, for example. There are already baby alarms that have an ordinary camera, but in the future – and for just a few euros more – it will be a hyperspectral camera.
Combining them for healthy driving or working, etc.
By combining the technologies described above – known as ‘sensor fusion’ – reliable readings can be achieved. For example, capacitive sensors can be used in a car seat to record ECG and respiration readings. But if the driver is wearing a thick sweater or jacket, this becomes more difficult. Then by integrating a radar device into the dashboard, to measure heart rate and respiration, it becomes possible to combine the readings and hence arrive at an end result that can be used in all circumstances. In an office environment, capacitive sensors can then be worked into an office chair, while a radar device or optical sensors can be placed in a laptop. In a living room, an armchair with capacitive sensors can be used in conjunction with a TV screen or light fixture with radar or optical sensors. Or capacitive sensors can be incorporated into the mattress of a (hospital) bed. Working with the manufacturers of these products, we are now looking to see how this technology for taking health readings can be put to further good use.
This also opens the door to new applications outside the hospital – for monitoring drivers or pilots, for example, or for use in at-home care situations for the early detection of heart problems that might save many people’s lives.