Pelican Infant Pulse Oximeter

Spring 2014 | RISD x MIT x Design That Matters

The Pelican Pulse Oximeter was developed as a spot-check machine for use in developing world Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs). Worldwide, pneumonia is the leading infectious cause of death in children under the age of five. [1] Pulse oximeters measure blood-oxygen saturation, and this number is a good baseline screen for detecting pneumonia.

Pulse oximeters work by measuring light transmittance, usually through the finger. However, existing pulse-ox units are often large and costly (running up to $6000). Additionally, first-world infant pulse-ox units are designed to fasten by single-use, disposable adhesive bands. These unit are not only unsuited for use on multiple children successively, but the cost of these disposable parts accumulates quickly.

The Pelican unit is intended allow provide fast, reliable, repeatable testing in an entirely self-contained, handheld form.

Use Demo

In preparation for designing the Pelican our team began with extensive research, both top-down and bottom-up, to determine necessary features, functionality, and metrics in order to develop a set of design specifications. We were able to access interview transcripts with Vietnamese NICU staff, and also consult with doctors and nurses from Mass General Hospital about existing equipment. From this feedback we developed initial concepts.

The device was then developed through several successive iterations. The internals of the pulse oximeter were prototyped using an Arduino board and a data acquisition chip from Nonin, a medical electronics manufacturer. The device exterior was mocked up first by hand, and later 3-D printed. We were fortunate to have the opportunity to test our prototypes with the assistance of Adrian (shown at right below).

As part of working through the design process, we filed a provisional patent for a spot-check pulse-ox unit, though ultimately this project has passed on to Design That Matters, who ran a successful Indiegogo campaign towards its continued development.

Pelican was developed with Leah Chung, Phillip Daniel, Esther Mangan, Keiichi Onishi, Aditya Ranjan, Shubhang Tandon, Wei Wu, and Victoria Young, with thanks to the team at Design That Matters.