Saving the heartbeat

Jul 20, 2014, 06:15 IST | Anu Prabhakar

Kuldeep Singh, a 22-year-old innovator, and his team are on the brink of selling a heart monitoring device that can save millions of lives

Kuldeep Singh is not your average 22-year-old. When he talks about using a smartphone, it is not to poke or ping someone. It is usually to explain how to save someone's life.

Kuldeep Singh

According to a recent survey by the Registrar General of India and the Indian Council of Medical Research, heart disease is the leading cause of death among Indians. The Belgaum-based entrepreneur and his team of five youngsters hope to strike at the root of this medical issue by monitoring the ECG signals of a patient through a project, 'mECG' — a mobile ECG monitoring system, which can be worn as a belt. Singh and his team worked on the project in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institution of Technology (MIT) Media Labs, in Boston.

Explaining 'mECG'
“The project idea originated at the ReDx MIT Health Tech Workshop, which was conducted by MIT Media Lab at IIT Bombay in January this year,” says Singh. “My team, which includes members Arjun Pola, Angad Daryani, Vidya Mansur, Pradeep PJ and Raghuveer Surupa, and I, worked with our mentors from MIT Media Lab, Rohan Puri, Dr Maulik Majmudar and Ramesh Raskar,” he adds.

(Above) A chart explaining the mECG and (right) Kuldeep Singh
A chart explaining the mECG and (top) Kuldeep Singh 

Talking about the project, he explains that the waterproof belt will continuously transmit single lead ECG signals to a doctor in any part of the world, through a mobile application. “A patient can tie the belt below their chest and carry on with their daily activities — like working, bathing and so on,” explains Singh. “The app analyses the ECG signals and the data gets stored on a cloud/database, which the doctor can then retrieve by keying in the 'patient code',” he adds. In the case of an irregular heart rhythm, the app automatically alerts the user with a beep. By clicking a button on the device, the user can alert a doctor or clinic, via a message or user interface.

If medically approved, this project has the potential to save millions of lives in India. The team is currently carrying out clinical trials in Mumbai hospitals. “After getting a medical license, the plan is to begin production by the end of the year and give the product to hospitals. We plan on making this available to patients by January 2015 for $10 (roughly R600) and the product will have a three-year warranty,” he adds. Dr Mohsin Ansari from the cardiology department at PD Hinduja Hospital, Mahim, who was a part of the trials, says, “The device will be useful in a set-up where trained medical professionals are not available 24/7, like a rural hospital, as the ECG signals can be analysed immediately by a doctor sitting anywhere in the world.”

Affordable healthcare
Singh has always been fascinated by the idea of providing affordable healthcare products to the have-nots. While at BV Bhoomaraddi College of Engineering and Technology in Belgaum, Singh worked on a device which, worn like a glove, could transform sign language into both speech and text on a small, portable LCD screen. This reduced the gap between those with hearing challenges and the rest drastically and fetched him the i3 Young Innovator Award 2012-13, awarded by the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India, Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) and Agilent Technologies. The device, for which Singh and his team collaborated with Mumbai-based NGOs, will be ready by November. “This will be distributed to NGOs and schools for students with hearing challenges,” he says.

Quick facts
>> mECG is a portable, water proof ECG monitoring device in the form of a wearable belt
>> The mobile app guides the patient on how to wear the device the right way
>> It then checks for a signal and starts recording the patient’s ECG signals
>> The mobile app live streams and analyses the signals. All ECG signals are stored on a database, thus enabling a doctor from any part of the world to key in a ‘patient code’ and access the signals at any time of the day
>> On detecting an irregularity, the patient and doctor are alerted

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