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Developing a multimodal biosensor for remote physiological monitoring
  1. Michael Smith1,
  2. R Withnall2,
  3. J Blackadder-Coward3 and
  4. N Taylor4
  1. 1RCI, RCDM, Birmingham, UK
  2. 2Defence Postgraduate Medical Deanery, Lichfield, Staffordshire, UK
  3. 3Academic Department of Military General Practice, Birmingham, UK
  4. 4Academic Department of Military General Practice, RCI, Birmingham, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Michael Smith, RCI, RCDM, Birmingham, UK; mikesmith{at}


Introduction Several UK military expeditions have successfully used physiological sensors to monitor participant’s physiological responses to challenging environmental conditions. This article describes the development and trial of a multimodal wearable biosensor that was used during the first all-female unassisted ski crossing of the Antarctic land mass. The project successfully transmitted remote real-time physiological data back to the UK. The ergonomic and technical lessons identified have informed recommendations for future wearable devices.

Method The biosensor devices were designed to be continuously worn against the skin and capture: HR, ECG, body surface temperature, bioimpedance, perspiration pH, sodium, lactate and glucose. The data were transmitted from the devices to an android smartphone using near-field technology. A custom-built App running on an android smartphone managed the secure transmission of the data to a UK research centre, using a commercially available satellite transceiver.

Results Real-time physiological data, captured by the multimodal device, was successfully transmitted back to a UK research control centre on 6 occasions. Postexpedition feedback from the participants has contributed to the ergonomic and technical refinement of the next generation of devices.

Conclusion The future success of wearable technologies lies in establishing clinical confidence in the quality of the measured data and the accurate interpretation of those data in the context of the individual, the environment and activity being undertaken. In the near future, wearable physiological monitoring could improve point-of-care diagnostic accuracy and inform critical medical and command decisions.

  • physiology
  • biotechnology & bioinformatics
  • telemedicine
  • primary care

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  • Twitter @jodieblackadder, @icemaidennat

  • Collaborators Professor Guang-Zhong Yang; Dr Salzitsa Anastasova; Dr Bruno Gil-Rosa.

  • Contributors MS designed, organised the trial and drafted the manuscript. RW was lead investigator and edited the manuscript. JB-C conducted the postexpedition interviews. NT (Ice Maiden) was a participant and advised on the ergonomics and design of the prototype device. She also contributed to the finished manuscript. G-ZY (Medical Director of the Hamlyn Centre, Institute of Global Health Innovation) provided the research team and the resources required to design and build the multimodal device. SA designed and developed the chemical sensors and BG-R designed and developed the integrated circuit, the App and device functionality. SA and BG-R provided the results and technical advice for the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Map disclaimer The depiction of boundaries on this map does not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of BMJ (or any member of its group) concerning the legal status of any country, territory, jurisdiction or area of its authorities. This map is provided without any warranty of any kind, either express or implied.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval Ethical approval was granted by the Ministry of Defence Ethics Committee (842MoDREC/17).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement Data sharing not applicable as no datasets generated and/or analysed for this study.