Instead of just improving on what has been done, innovations in medical test and measurement look at new ways to collect sensor-based data and act on it.
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There are many innovations that are unrelated to entries at contests; many of them are being done at universities. For example, ear infections are common but often misdiagnosed, with a roughly 50/50 right/wrong assessment; in fact, it's often the physician's experience and judgment based on various symptoms that is used to make the final determination. The reason is that the conventional visible-light otoscope used for viewing within the ear can’t penetrate deeply enough into the tissues to show the build-up of fluid behind the eardrum.
To overcome this problem, a team at MIT developed and is field testing a new kind of otoscope that uses shortwave infrared light SWIR rather than visible light and can penetrate much deeper. Although this is more complicated and expensive than a standard unit, the difference is modest with today's electro-optical technology; it can hopefully provide a more accurate assessment than the standard method, which is only slightly better than a guess.
Figure 1: The shape of the ear canal and location of the eardrum (tympanic membrane) makes it difficult to see and assess fluid on the other side (left); the image as seen through a standard otoscope as well as when using SWIR-based imaging (right). (Source: BiOptics World)
Instead of just improving on what has been done, these innovations in medical test and measurement look at new ways to collect sensor-based data and act on it. They do this by using and combining transducers that go beyond the standard approaches and adding signal-processing algorithms, which transformed this data into useful insight. Measuring multiple parameters such as pressure, IR, temperature and others is also becoming a common approach as the cost of these sensors, as well as their size and power needs, decreases while their performance increases.
Have you seen any similar non-invasive, relatively low-cost, small-sized medical instrumentation that impressed you? Or have you worked on any of these designs?
First published by EE Times U.S.