Video: Open-Source Oximeter Prototype Is Bluetooth Connected

Cabe Atwell

March 15, 2013

3 Min Read
Video: Open-Source Oximeter Prototype Is Bluetooth Connected

Do you know how much oxygen you have in your blood? You may not be worried about knowing since you're alive and thus can infer you have enough. But, visiting high altitudes can be made safer, and implementing a new workout regimen can be made more effective, with an oximeter.

These devices can be pricey and offer little to no customization. So, the people at SmartMaker decided to make an oximeter following the open-source model to achieve low cost and an endless potential for modification.

The resulting device -- the SmartPulse -- is a working prototype that is low power, and has an embedded microcontroller for creating the necessary spectrometry wavelengths, reading data, calculating parameters, and generating the output. It includes a Bluetooth 4.0 interface that makes it very simple to link the device to a plethora of others. The SmartPulse can run on two AAA batteries or on 3.7V Li-ion batteries.


The best part of the device is the potential for work and modification using many platforms. The SmartPulse can be used with Linux, Apple, and Windows as long as you have a Bluetooth adapter compatible with UART capabilities. Libraries will be created to mod the SmartPulse using Raspberry Pi (model B), Arduino, and the Electric Imp with Bluetooth adaptor.

The readout from the device can be shown on a free Android (Gingerbread 2.3) or iOS (iOS 5 or higher) app. The device seems to include a readout screen in case you do not have your smartphone handy, but it also offers support for OLED or LCD displays.

The way this devices works is very similar to other oximeters. It uses photo detection, or spectrometry, to send light of two different wavelengths through a thin layer of skin like an earlobe or a fingertip (it is not affected by most nail polishes). The photo-detector then measures the change in the amount of light absorbed due to oxygenated hemoglobin in arterial blood, that can be turned into a reading of oxygen levels in blood.

Apart from Oxyhemoglobin, the device can also detect levels of deoxygenated hemoglobin; abilities that can be tapped into using the peripheral hardware mentioned above and the SmartPulse API. The device also provides the heartbeats per minute of the user.

The company is looking for more funding from private investors to finish out this first prototyping phase. They want to hire a professional to design a shell for the SmartPulse that can be 3D printed, and developers to write APIs for additional platforms. Funds are also needed to produce a mass quantity of prototypes to conduct field tests on a large sample of users.

Once this stage is complete, SmartMaker will open up a Kickstarter campaign, offering SmartPulse oximeters for around $40. The ultimate price for the device is expected to be around $50.

Using the SmartPulse, healthcare facilities could create low-cost networks for real-time data access and storage to monitor patients, and athletes could have custom-made apps to achieve optimum levels of aeration to their muscles.

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About the Author(s)

Cabe Atwell

Cabe is an electrical engineer, machinist, maker, cartoonist, and author with 25 years’ experience. When not designing/building, he creates a steady stream of projects and content in the media world at element14,, MAKE ─ among others. His most recent book is “Essential 555 IC: Design, Configure, and Create Clever Circuits.

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