A new type of sensor technology, conceived of in 2001, is getting big interest from medical device companies and others. The company is called Nexense
(don't you love those company names you can't pronounce?). This small
start up has 4 employees in New Jersey and about 20 at their
headquarters in Israel. Their patent pending technology creates sensors
that are very small (as small as 3mm square), low cost and with very
high resolution and signal to noise ratio. They're in the process of
luring companies of all types to their New Jersey offices to discuss
applications that can be productized. GE Healthcare is an investor in the company.

Health care applications include heart rate (including beat to beat
variability), respiration, movement and temp. The technology can
monitor patients via sensors located in or under a mattress for non
invasive monitoring that does not physically touch the patient. I'm
sure visions of beds being turned in to low cost ubiquitous vital signs
monitors are dancing in a few people's heads.

A so-called traditional sensor, like the one that turns your
seatbelt light on when you sit behind the wheel, works by taking a
physical input – pressure, flow, temperature, etc. – and creating an
electrical output which can then be measured.

Nexense's invention…  transmits a continuous energy wave through a material to a
receiver, and then measures the effect of any force placed on that
material by tracking the energy wave's frequency changes. More
specifically (and for all you physics majors and engineers out there),
the method links the measurement of any physical phenomenon to time,
allowing the sensor to measure with extreme accuracy, the company says.

Nexense has also figured out a way to produce the measurement
results directly in a digital format, as opposed to translating analog
results to digital. And the company says its sensors, which can be
tailored to any job, can be made cheaply.

While the physiological parameters mentioned sound interesting, it
remains to be seen whether they can adapt their technology to monitor
blood pressure and the other parameters that are so central to basic
patient monitoring. A number of viable product strategies come to mind,
with varying time to market and development costs. How vendors
ultimately decide to leverage this technology will be interesting to
see.