Evaluation of Wearable Optical Heart Rate Monitoring Sensors
Parak, Jakub (2018)
Tampere University of Technology
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Heart rate monitoring provides valuable information about an individual’s physiological condition. The information obtained from heart rate monitoring can be used for a wide range of purposes such as clinical diagnostics, assessment of the efficiency of training for sports and fitness, or of sleep quality and stress levels in wellbeing applications. Other useful parameters for describing a person’s fitness, such as maximal oxygen uptake and energy expenditure, can also be estimated using heart rate measurement. The traditional ‘gold standard’ for heart rate monitoring is the electrocardiograph, but nowadays there are a number of alternative methods too. Of these, optical sensors provide a relatively simple, lowcost and unobtrusive technology for monitoring heart rate and they are widely accepted by users. There are many factors affecting the measurement of optical signals that have an effect on the accuracy of heart rate estimation. However, there is a lack of standardized and unified methodology for comparing the accuracy of optical heart rate sensors to the ‘gold standard’ methods of measuring heart rate. The widespread use of optical sensors for different purposes has led to a pressing need for a common objective methodology for the evaluation of how accurate these sensors are. This thesis presents a methodology for the objective evaluation of optical heart-rate sensors. The methodology is applied in evaluation studies of four commercially available optical sensors. These evaluations were carried out during both controlled and non-controlled sporting and daily life activities. In addition, evaluation of beat detection accuracy was carried out in non-controlled sleep conditions. The accuracy of wrist-worn optical heart-rate sensors in estimating of maximal oxygen uptake during submaximal exercise and energy expenditure during maximal exercise using heart rate as input parameter were also evaluated. The accuracy of a semi-continuous heart rate estimation algorithm designed to reduce power consumption for long-term monitoring was also evaluated in various conditions. The main findings show that optical heart-rate sensors may be highly accurate during rhythmic sports activities, such as jogging, running, and cycling, including ramp-up running during maximal exercise testing. During non-rhythmic activities, such as intermittent hand movements, the sensors’ accuracy depends on where they are worn. During sleep and motionless conditions, the optical heart-rate sensors’ estimates for beat detection and inter-beat interval showed less than one percent inaccuracy against the values obtained using standard measurement techniques. The sensors were also sufficiently accurate at measuring the interbeat intervals to be used for calculating the heart rate variability parameters. The estimation accuracy of the fitness parameters derived from measured heart rate can be described as follows. An assessment of the maximal oxygen uptake estimation during a sub-maximal outdoor exercise had a precision close to a sport laboratory measurement. The energy expenditure estimation during a maximal exercise was more accurate during higher intensity of exercise above aerobic threshold but the accuracy decreased at lower intensity of exercise below the aerobic threshold, in comparison with the standardized reference measurement. The semi-continuous algorithm was nearly as accurate as continuous heart-rate detection, and there was a significant reduction in the power consumption of the optical chain components up to eighty percent. The results obtained from these studies show that, under certain conditions, optical sensors may be similarly accurate in measuring heart rate as the ‘gold standard’ methods and they can be relied on to monitor heart rate for various purposes during sport, everyday activities, or sleep.
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