Nonin develops iPhone-connected regional oximeter

By Jonah Comstock
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NONIN MEDICAL, INC. OXIMETERMedical device maker Nonin showed off a new smartphone-connected product, a regional oximeter, at Medica in Dusseldorf, Germany. 

Regional oximetry, also called cerebral oximetry or rSO2, is a form of continuous monitoring that measures the level of oxygen saturation in the brain or on other tissue. According to Nonin's description of its existing regional oximetry system, the technology can be placed on the brain or the body and is used to monitor patients at risk of losing oxygen to their brains during surgery or recovery. It's also used in neonatal monitoring.

Nonin actually showed off two kinds of regional oximeter at the event, but the company says both are investigational with "no time table for commercialization."

The first device, billed as the world's smallest regional oximetry system, connects via Bluetooth Smart to a mobile device. The company demonstrated it with an iPad. It can read either regional oximetry or pulse oximetry.

The other regional oximeter connects directly to an iPhone 4 or iPod touch via a sleeve containing a Nonin SenSmart Regional Oximetry sensor. This is a similar form factor to AliveCor's iPhone Heart Monitor. iOS software allows the data to be displayed graphically or numerically, as well as storing results.

Nonin did not elaborate on the value of smartphone-connected regional oximetry, but Phil Isaacson, Executive Director and Chief Technology Officer for Nonin Medical, suggested in a statement that a mobile form factor could introduce new use cases for regional oximetry.

"Nonin Medical has strong history of creating noninvasive medical monitoring technologies that change the practice of medicine and improve the quality of patients' lives," he said. "When Nonin invented the first fingertip and wireless fingertip pulse oximeters, we enabled pulse oximetry monitoring to expand beyond clinician use and hospital settings in convenient, affordable ways. Similarly, we anticipate that these investigative technologies -- because of their compact size, portability and connectivity -- could bring more convenience, value, functionality and choice to the marketplace."

Nonin last made news when it got FDA 510(k) clearance for its Bluetooth-enabled fingertip pulse oximeter. Nonin pulse oximeters have been used in remote monitoring by in remote patient monitoring and telemedicine by companies including Bosch, GE Intel Care Innovations, and Qualcomm Life.