Heart Rate Monitor and Electrocardiograph Fundamentals 1 Introduction Freescale Semiconductor

Heart Rate Monitor and Electrocardiograph Fundamentals 1 Introduction Freescale Semiconductor
Freescale Semiconductor
Application Note
Document Number: AN4059
Rev. 0, 3/2010
Heart Rate Monitor and
Electrocardiograph Fundamentals
Carlos Casillas
RTAC Americas
1 Introduction
This application note demonstrates fundamental implementations
of the cost effective heart hate monitor (HRM) and
electrocardiograph (ECG or EKG) devices using Freescale
products. The heart rate monitor is implemented on a low cost
MC9RS08KA2 ultra low-end 8-bit microcontroller using an
analog comparator module (ACMP) and standard IO pins. The
electrocardiograph is implemented on the MC9S08JM60 USB
device 8-bit microcontroller using an analog-to-digital converter
(ADC) and USB connectivity to send data to a PC.
This document is intended to be used by biomedical engineers,
medical equipment development engineers, or any person related
with medicine and interested in understanding the operation of
HRMs and ECGs. However, it is necessary to know the
fundamentals of electronic analog and digital circuits.
2 Physiological Fundamentals
This section provides some fundamentals about heart physiology,
helping to understand how the applications are developed.
2.1 Heart and Functions
The heart is the organ responsible for pumping blood throughout
the body. It is located in the middle of the thorax, slightly offset
to the left and surrounded by the lungs.
© Freescale Semiconductor, 2009 – . All rights reserved.
1 Introduction...........................................................1
2 Physiological Fundamentals .................................1
3 Heart Rate Monitor Implementation.....................5
4 Electrocardiograph Implementation....................12
5 Running the HRM and ECG Demo....................13
6 Optional Additions .............................................19
7 Considerations and References...........................21
8 Conclusions.........................................................21
Physiological Fundamentals
The heart is composed of four chambers; two atriums and two ventricles. The right atrium receives blood returning to the heart
from the whole body. That blood passes through the right ventricle and is pumped to the lungs where it is oxygenated and goes
back to the heart through the left atrium, then the blood passes through the left ventricle and is pumped again to be distributed
to the entire body through the arteries.
Figure 1. Blood circulation scheme
2.2 Heart—Electrical Activity
Electrical heart activity is based on depolarization and re-polarization of myocardial cells. The electrical impulse starts in the
sinuatrial node (natural pacemaker) flowing through the atriums to reach the atrioventricular node and generating the atrium
contraction. The current then flows through the Hiz Bundle reaches the ventricles and flows through them generating the
ventricular contractions. Finally, the current reaches the Purkinje fibers and re-polarization of the heart tissue occurs.
Figure 2 shows the heart chambers and tissues associated to electrical heart activity.
Figure 2. Cardiac conduction system
This is a list of events that occur in the heart on each heart beat. Figure 3 shows heart behavior and part of the generated signal
also known as QRS complex:
1. Atrium begins to depolarize
2. Atrium depolarizes
3. Ventricles begin to depolarize at apex. Atrium repolarizes
4. Ventricles depolarize
5. Ventricles begin to repolarize at apex
6. Ventricles repolarize
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Physiological Fundamentals
Figure 3. Myocardium electrical activity
2.3 Biological Electrical Potentials
The electrical potentials generated by the heart can be represented as vector quantity. For understanding purposes, the heart is
represented as a dipole located in the thorax with a specific polarity at a certain moment, and an inverted polarity the next
moment. The potential in a specific moment is defined by the amount of charge and the separation between charges.
Figure 4 shows an example of acquiring signals between two points on a muscle, using a differential operational amplifier.
Figure 4. Differential amplification, m=signal from muscle, n=noise
As is shown in Figure 4, the output of the operational amplifier is the difference of magnitudes of m1 and m2.
Each pair of electrodes or an electrodes combination is defined as lead. There are three basic leads used for cardiology. Lead I
is at 0°, lead II is at 60°, and lead III is at 120°. The graphic representation of each lead is shown in Figure 5.
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Physiological Fundamentals
Figure 5. Einthoven Triangle
The three basic leads shown in Figure 5 make-up the frontal-plane. Electrodes are placed on the limbs; left arm (LA), right arm
(RA), and left leg (LL). Those connections are due to the legs and arms being used as a “wire” to detect the bio-potentials that
occur in the chest.
2.4 Measuring the Heart Rate—Importance
Measuring the heart rate helps in different areas. For example; when used in fitness routines and indicating an exercise zone
for different purposes such as fat burning. A normal heart rate depends on age. Children have higher heart rates compared to
Figure 6 shows a graph of the heart rate and the age for different purposes.
Figure 6. Exercise target zone chart
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Heart Rate Monitor Implementation
3 Heart Rate Monitor Implementation
The heart rate is the number of heart beats per minute. A heart rate monitor is a device used to measure the heart rate. This
device helps to detect heart malfunctions such as a tachycardia, bradycardia, or other diseases.
Freescale solution includes the MC9RS08KA2 MCU. Key features used in this application are:
• ICS—Internal clock source avoids the use of the external oscillator and provides a bus clock of up to 10 MHz for fast
code execution.
• MTIM—8-bit modulo timer is used to define time intervals used in heart beat detection algorithms.
• ACMP—Analog comparator has internal threshold levels and offers the possibility of adding an external reference.
• BDM—Background debug module provides a single-wire in-circuit debug interface.
• 6-pin and 8-pin packages—Small packages for small designs. Enough pins for heart rate monitor implementation.
Figure 7 shows the block diagram of an HRM implementation using the MC9RS09KA2 MCU.
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Heart Rate Monitor Implementation
Figure 7. Heart rate monitor implementation using finger tips
3.1 Analog Front End
The signal acquisition is the first consideration when an HRM is implemented. The electrodes in the skin detect the small
voltages in the order of hundreds of micro volts generated by heart activity, but the signal is too small and contains a lot of
added noise.
Figure 8 shows a typical heart signal. In this signal, the heart muscles generate different voltages. The P wave represents the
atrium contraction. QRS complex and the T wave represents the ventricles actions. Each time that this signal is present, a heart
beat is generated. For this reason it is important to develop analog and digital signal conditioning. First, it is necessary to amplify
the signal and filter the noise, and then extract the QRS complex.
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Heart Rate Monitor Implementation
Figure 8. Typical heart signal
Noise and interference signals acquired in this type of system are caused by the electric installation. The small electrical signal
from the heart generates a common-mode voltage and noise in the system. The signals from the heart are too small and it is
necessary to amplify the signal and reduce the common-mode voltage on the system. Other aspects that generate noise are
muscle contractions, respiration, electromagnetic interference, and electromagnetic emissions from electronic components.
Cardiac motion generates electrical signals with different potentials on the body that can be sensed with electrodes connected
to the right hand and left hand and the reference electrode on the left leg or on the stomach.
The cut frequencies of the filter for this case are 0.5 Hz and 150 Hz. The lower limit of cut frequencies is due to noise that can
be induced by respiration or by muscle contractions. The higher limit of the cut frequencies is defined to reduce the interference
of the electromagnetic high-frequency signal. A normal heart operation is included in those frequency ranges.
The signal has an amplitude of approximately 1 mV peak to peak and contains common-mode voltage noises.
3.1.1 Amplification and Filtering
The electrodes of the left and right arms are connected to the inputs of an instrumentation amplifier; and the reference electrode
of the left leg is connected to ground. Figure 9 shows the mentioned connections using patch electrodes on the surface of the
arms, and a reference electrode on the surface of one leg. The gain of the instrumentation amplifier (U32) is defined by resistors
R86 and R49. In this case, a gain of 667.6 is implemented.
Figure 9. Electrode connections to the instrumentation amplifier
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Heart Rate Monitor Implementation
The signal at the output of the instrumentation amplifier is filtered to reduce the noise. The equation to obtain the cut frequency
of an RC filter is:
For the cut frequency of 0.5 Hz, the defined values are the following:
For the cut frequency of 150 Hz, the defined values are:
The filters have a virtual ground applying an offset to the signal. This signal is sent to an operational amplifier that conditions
the signal to better levels for the ADC microcontroller. The offset applied by the virtual ground helps to conserve the negative
part of the signal, this is because the operational amplifier is a single supply device. See Figure 10
Figure 10. Filter and operational amplifier connections
The wanted ECG signal is periodical with an amplitude of about 3 to 4 Volts peak-to-peak.
In this implementation, the offset voltage applied to the obtained signal is fixed and may
at times need to be adjusted. However, this function can be implemented automatically
through hardware and software implementations.
3.2 Software for the Heart Rate Monitor
This section describes the architecture flow chart and function descriptions for the HRM_KA project.
3.2.1 Architecture
The architecture of the HRM software is based on polling. This is because the MC9RS08KA family has no interrupt vector nor
a stack pointer to provide interrupts. When the system starts, the general purpose pins are configured. One pin is used as output
when a red LED is connected and is an alarm. Another pin is used as output where a green led and a speaker are connected to
indicate visually and with sound when a heart beat is detected.
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Heart Rate Monitor Implementation
Another function initializes the ACMP to configure the use of an external reference and clear the flag used to indicate that the
input signal passed the reference level detecting a heart beat.
The timer MTIM is then initialized to set its overflow flag each eight milliseconds. For polling this flag, a counter is incremented
to count up to 1 second allowing to turn off the alarm and calculate the heart rate every second, turning on the alarm if the
defined limit is passed. All the polling is inside an infinite loop.
3.2.2 HRM_KA Project Description
The HRM software includes all its functions in the main.c file, reducing the calls to subroutines. The flowchart of the main()
function of the HRM_KA project is shown and the performed tasks by each part of the code detailed.
Figure 11. Flowchart of main() function of HRM_KA project
void main(void)
This is the principal function. It calls initialization functions to configure the GPIOs, MTIM, and ACMP. It then enters an
infinite loop and polling status to execute sub-processes referred to as events.
void main(void)
//byte lbFlag;
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Heart Rate Monitor Implementation
//byte lbCounterPeak = 0x00;
//byte lb1SecCounter = 0x99;
unsigned int u16Counter = 0,conttemp=0;
Endless loop. Each event is detailed separated.
/* feeds the dog */
The initialization functions called by the main() are detailed below:
void vfnGPIOConfig (void)
This function configures the input and output pins required by the application. For the red and green leds, and the buzzer, the
pins must be outputs. The external threshold reference and heart signal must be inputs. These configurations are in the function
void vfnGPIOConfig(void)
//PTA5 as output INDICATOR
//PTA5 as output ALARM
//ACMP+ as input
//ACMP- as input
void vfnACMPConfig (void)
This function configures the analog comparator to use an external reference for the threshold and clears the status flag.
void vfnACMPConfig(void)
ACMPSC = 0x01;
//External reference -- Interrupt Disable -- Raising edge
ACMPSC |= 0xA0; //Enable the comparator and clear the event flag
void vfnMTIMConfig (void)
This function initializes the modulo timer. First, the counter is stopped and reset. Then the clock source is defined as the bus
clock divided by 128. Finally, the timer is started.
The bus clock is 4 MHz, divided by 128 results in a frequency of 31.25 KHz, with a period of 32 microseconds. This is the time
of one count of the timer, which is 8-bit. Therefore, its overflow value is 256. This is the reason why the overflow flag is set
every 8 milliseconds. The initialization function is shown below:
void vfnMTIMConfig(void)
// -- Reset Counter -- Counter stopped
MTIMCLK = 0x07;
//Bus clock divided by 128
//The counter starts
Endless loop events
The following code explains the events that occur in the endless loop. These events are defined by the poll of flags and values
of variables.
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Heart Rate Monitor Implementation
The first event checks if the overflow flag of the MTIM is set to clear and increment a variable named u16Counter. The code
is shown below:
//Is set every 8ms
The next event checks if the u16Counter variable reaches the value of 125. This is because the variable is incremented 8
milliseconds each and multiplied by 125 the resultant time counted is one second. In this event, the u16Counter variable is
cleared and the alarm is turned off. The average heart rate is calculated based on a buffer of 15 measurements. The code of this
event is shown below:
if(u16Counter == 125)
u16Counter = 0;
u8Beat_SecondBuff[15] = 0;
u8Beat_SecondBuff[15] += u8Beat_SecondBuff[y];
u8Beat_SecondBuff[15] = u8Beat_SecondBuff[15]<<2;
//Multiply by 4 to get the total heartbeats in a minute
if(u8Beat_SecondPtr==15) u8Beat_SecondPtr = 0;
u8Beat_SecondBuff[u8Beat_SecondPtr] = 0;
The next event checks if the heart rate average is less the the defined limit (HRUpperLimit). If this is true, the alarm is turned
on. This defines pediatric or adult limits, as is explained in Chapter 2.4 Measuring the Heart Rate—Importance. The code is
shown below:
//Is HR over the limit?
Next, the variable lbFlag takes the value returned by the subroutine bfnACMPRead() which is explained later. Then, the last
event checks the value of the lbFlag variable. If this is true, the indicator LED is turned on and the buzzer beeps, then a delay
is executed, and the LED and buzzer are turned off. The code is shown below:
lbFlag = bfnACMPRead();
if (lbFlag)
// feeds the dog
byte bfnACMPRead(void)
This function checks if the signal from the heart connected to the comparator passed the threshold. If true, it updates the buffer
used to obtain the average of the heart rate and then increments a variable that counts the heartbeats. The code is shown below:
byte bfnACMPRead(void)
//Passing the threshold ????
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Electrocardiograph Implementation
// Clear flag
ACMPDelay = 0;
return (0);
Changing the maximum value of the heart rate to set the alarm
If you never reach the value of 100 heartbeats per minute to set the alarm change the maximum value for the alarm in the code
is shown below:
#define HRUpperLimit 100
4 Electrocardiograph Implementation
Another important device used for cardiac diseases is the electrocardiograph. This device plots a graph of the electrical activity
of the heart. It is useful in diagnostic and therapeutic areas helping detect abnormal heart functions such as arrhythmia, tachycardia,
bradycardia, or other cardiac problems.
4.1 Electrocardiograph Software
The software required for this implementation consists in the USB data logger based on the MC9S08JM60, which is explained
entirely in the application note titled The USB Data Logger Based on the MC9S08JM60 (document AN3582). This application
note also includes a graphical user interface (GUI), with details in Chapter 5.5 Using the Freescale JM60 GUI to Obtain the
ECG Signal.
4.2 Hardware Connection
The analog front end used by the HRM is used by the electrocardiograph. Not only is it compared with a reference level as
implemented in the HRM, but the signal is sampled by the analog-to-digital converter to capture the wave form allowing to
send through a USB communication.
The Freescale solution includes the MC9S08JM60 MCU. Key features for this application note are the following:
• USB—USB 2.0 full-speed (12 Mbps) device controller with a dedicated on-chip USB transceiver.
• SCI, SPI, and I2C modules—Two serial communication interfaces, two serial peripheral interfaces, and inter-integrated
circuit bus allowing to expand communication and connectivity options.
• ADC—Analog-to-digital converter 12-channel and 12-bit with automatic compare function and an internal temperature
• BDM—Background debug module provides a single-wire in-circuit debug interface.
The following block diagram shows the specific blocks implemented in this application. The dashed line indicates an optional
block that can be included.
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Running the HRM and ECG Demo
Figure 12. MC9S08JM60 1-lead electrocardiograph implementation
5 Running the HRM and ECG Demo
This section provides considerations, connections, test results, and tool usage for the HRM and ECG demo.
5.1 Settings and Considerations
To obtain the heart rate using the Freescale solution, steps are required. These steps are listed below:
1. Connect the board to a USB port on a host computer. If the JM60 is programmed, the PC requires a driver. This is included
with the installation of the Freescale JM60 GUI included in the zip file of this application note.
2. Make sure that switch SW1 is in the down position to power the system using a USB cable. Figure 13 shows the position
of this switch.
3. The KA2 microcontroller must be programmed with the CodeWarrior project HRM_KA included in the AN4059SW.zip
file that can be downloaded from the Freescale web page. Connect a BDM to a USB port on the computer, and connect
it to the closest header to the KA2.
4. The JM60 microcontroller must be programmed with the CodeWarrior project datalogger included in the AN4059SW.zip
file that can be downloaded from the Freescale website. Connect a BDM to a USB port on the computer, and connect it
to the closest header to the JM60.
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Running the HRM and ECG Demo
Figure 13. Freescale solution considerations
5.2 Connecting Electrodes
As is explained in Chapter 2.3 Biological Electrical Potentials, the electrodes can be collocated in different places of the body,
depending on the signal that it is looking for. Figure 14 shows the placement of the electrodes on the body:
Figure 14. Electrodes placement implemented
5.3 Obtaining Heart Rate by Using a Visualization Tool
The CodeWarrior project includes a lot of tools to help debugging projects. The project for the KA2 allows visualizing the
average of heart beats obtained in one part of the program. To enable this function go to the debugging window shown in Figure
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Running the HRM and ECG Demo
Figure 15. Debugging window
Then, go to the Component menu and click on Open. The following window opens Figure 16:
Figure 16. Component window
Click on the OK button to close the window. Then, click on the open folder button Figure 17:
Figure 17. Open folder
In the window that appears in the Open Visualization Tool Layout, look for the file HRM.vtl. This file is in the bin folder,
the folder that includes the entire project. Select this file as is shown in Figure 18, and click on Open button.
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Running the HRM and ECG Demo
Figure 18. HRM
Finally, run the code and look at the heart rate shown on the screen.
Figure 19. Heart rate code
5.4 Measuring the ECG Signal with the Oscilloscope
The following figures show the waveforms of the obtained signal in each part of the analog front end. Figure 20 shows the
waveform at output of the instrumentation amplifier.
The peak-to-peak voltage of the heart signal is in the order of about 650 mV, and with noise added.
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Running the HRM and ECG Demo
Figure 20. Heart signal at the output of the instrumentation amplifier
Figure 21 shows the heart signal at the output of the passive band-pass filter.
The noise present in the signal has been reduced; however, the peak-to-peak amplitude has been also attenuated due to filter
effects. To counteract this effect and condition the signal to values of rail-to-rail voltages of the ADC, a second amplification
is applied using an operational amplifier.
Figure 21. Heart signal at the output of the band-pass filter
The signal at the output of the operational amplifier is shown in Figure 22. The signal has been amplified, and its peak-to-peak
voltage is in the order of 3 V. This is s optimal value to be passed to the ADC
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Running the HRM and ECG Demo
Figure 22. Heart signal at the output of the secondary operational amplifier
5.5 Using the Freescale JM60 GUI to Obtain the ECG Signal
Open the JM60 GUI. The main window is shown below:
Figure 23. S08JM60 Applications menu
Select the Data Acquisition option and the following window opens.
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Optional Additions
Figure 24. Data aquisition window
Select :
Set the precision to 12 Bits
Set the sample rate to 200 KHz
Then, press “Start ADC” button
Figure 25. S08JM60 USB GPIO/ADC demo
The heart signal is shown in the Scope Window. For complete use of the JM60 GUI, refer to the application note titled The
USB Data Logger Based on the MC9S08JM60 (document AN3582). It can be found on the Freescale webpage.
6 Optional Additions
This section shows additions that can be implemented to the demo.
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Optional Additions
6.1 USB Personal Healthcare Device Class Compatibility
A USB Personal Health Care Device Class specification (PHDC) was required to implement proprietary methods for sending
personal healthcare data to a USB host. The USB PHDC is to enable seamless interoperability between personal healthcare
devices and USB hosts that allow for a variety of new cases for both devices and hosts.
Freescale’s Medical Applications USB stack is based on the USB's PHDC and IEEE-11073. It is compatible with the Continua
Host emulator software available on the Continua Health Alliance webpage. This Medical USB stack enables microcontrollers
with guidelines for the Continua Health Alliance connectivity and is the first step to test your application prior to the official
Continua Certification. The Continua Host Emulator can be downloaded for free for Continua Health Alliance members.
Freescale provides CodeWarrior projects to implement a PHDC using the MC9S08JS, MC9S08JM 8-bit devices, and the
MCF51JM 32-bit Coldfire V1 device. For more information, please refer to the Freescale Medical webpage.
6.2 Bluetooth Connectivity
Bluetooth is an open wireless protocol for exchanging data over short distances from fixed and mobile devices creating personal
area networks (PANs). It was originally conceived as a wireless alternative to RS232 data cables. It can connect several devices
overcoming problems of synchronization. Bluetooth provides up to 10 meters of distance to set-up communication with a speed
of up to 1 Mb/s. Bluetooth also provides high compatibility to most computers and it is not necessary to implement a special
network for communication.
This kind of communication can be implemented on the HRM and ECG to connect wirelessly. The National Instruments
LMX9838 device is optimal for this application.
The hardware configuration can be implemented as is shown in Figure 26.
Figure 26. Hardware connection for Bluetooth implementation
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Considerations and References
6.3 Baud Rate Configuration
The LMX9838 provides a UART interface to communicate with the MCU through the SCI module LMX9838 that must be
configured with a baudrate. The UART interface supports formats of 8-bit data with or without parity and with one or two stop
bits. It can operate at standard baud rates from 2400 bits/s up to a maximum baud rate of 921.6 kbits/s. The UART baudrate is
configured during startup by checking option pins OP3, OP4, and OP5 as shown. Table 1 shows different UART frequency
Table 1. UART frequency settings
Baud Rate
Read from NVS
9.6 kbps
115.2 kbps
921.6 kbps
When the value is 1 this indicates that a 1 K Ω pull up resistor must be placed.
An implementation example of this communication option can be found in the application note titled Implementing Glucometer
and Blood Pressure Monitor Medical Devices (document AN4025). That application note shows the connection of the Bluetooth
transceiver to an MC9S08LL16, and provides the code used for communication.
7 Considerations and References
• The use of these kinds of devices do not supply the professional diagnostic of a physician. Implementing this device helps
to detect if a diseases is occurring, but the treatments must be administrated by the cardiologist.
• For more information about Freescale microcontrollers, refer to the MC9RS08KA2/1 Datasheet, and the MC9S08JM60
Datasheet, that can be found on the Freescale webpage.
• The software was developed and tested with CodeWarrior v6.2.1
• Download the tools and source files for AN4059SW.zip from www.freescale.com.
• A variety of videos showing the implementation of explained medical devices can be found on www.freescale.com/medical
and www.youtube.com/freescale.
8 Conclusions
Freescale products catalog offers many devices to implement medical applications. The MC9RS08KA2 and MC9S08JM60 are
examples of this by offering high performance, low cost and low power consumption in a variety of ultra-low-end microcontrollers,
and USB device microcontrollers.
This system is a low-cost, low-power, and battery operated with Continua Health Alliance connectivity over USB. It is uses
only a 1-lead. However, a full 12-lead ECG can be implemented populating all the hardware, and using the digital signal
controller (DSC) MC56F8013 to execute algorithms to detect arrhythmias or other heart diseases.
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