Are Biometric Sensors the Key to Healthier Horses…and Humans?

March 4, 2020

Christine Young  By: Christine Young
 Blogger, Maxim Integrated 


Racing is a physically intense activity. Wearable biosensing technologies provide a convenient, unobtrusive way to monitor vital signs during training periods as well as races. Based on the insights gleaned, runners can make adjustments to ease the stress on their bodies while enhancing their performance.

What about racehorses, which are euthanized by the hundreds each year?

Equine fitness trackers are now available to provide real-time measurements of vital signs such as respiratory rate, blood-oxygen saturation (SpO2), heart-rate variability, and temperature. One particularly unique tracking system comes from Equine SmartBits, which has developed smart sensor-based technology that measures horse biometrics through the mouth. The technology, also called Equine SmartBits, represents a reinvention of the horse bridle bit, a device that has essentially remain unchanged since Roman chariot horse racing began 3,500 years ago. The company hopes to enhance horse training programs as well as equine health and performance by delivering real-time vital sign monitoring and analytics on parameters including temperature, heart rate, and SpO2. If the high-tech bridle bit detects that any vital sign for a horse is out of optimal range, the horse's trainer will receive an alert via an accompanying app.

Co-founders Mike Saigh, CEO, and Shower Zhang, COO, have their sights set on developing similar mouth-based biometrics monitoring technology for humans. "What we can do with horses, we can learn so much for human athletes," notes Saigh, adding that the mouth provides a perfect location for direct scientific measurements because saliva is a good indicator of various health conditions.

The company holds a patent family on its technology that integrates sensors from the oral cavity for animals and humans for applications including the early, non-invasive detection of disease and biometric measurements for sports performance.

To deliver high accuracy, the company's engineers needed bio-sensors that could accommodate the effects of a horse's constant, fast motion. The sensors also had to have the capability of capturing the wide range of heart beats in a horse – from a typical 30 beats per minute (BPM) at rest to up to 200 BPM in a racing situation. Finally, the sensors had to be tiny enough to fit inside the compact horse bridle bits.

Equine SmartBits found its sensor solutions in these Maxim parts:

  • MAX30102 high-sensitivity pulse oximeter and heart-rate sensor
  • MAX32664 ultra-low-power bio-algorithm sensor hub
  • MAX30205 clinical-grade temperature sensor
  • MAX8808X Li+ battery charger
  • MAX40200 current switch/ideal diode
  • MAX8902 low-noise 500mA LDO regulator
  • MAX6775 1% accurate battery monitor

"The Maxim chips performed beautifully when we used them. It really has become a standard with many companies. And the people have just been tremendous," Saigh said.

Learn More

For more insights into biometric sensing technologies, have a look at these resources:

Biometric sensors integrated into a horse bridle bit from Equine SmartBits measure horse biometrics.Biometric sensors integrated into a horse bridle bit from Equine SmartBits measure horse biometrics.