Radio New Zealand’s Programme About Canaria

Radio New Zealand dedicated an entire This Way Up programme to Canaria!

Listen to the full show here.

‘From a simple pedometer that measures your step count to sleep monitoring, pulse counting thermometers, like the Fitbit, the Samsung Gear or the Apple Watch, wearables are taking off.

With ever smaller, more powerful and cheaper devices on the market, most wearables today are used for self tracking. But in the future how much will they be used to measure your vital signs and provide detailed medical data about your state of health?

That’s the plan for the Canaria, a device that’s worn behind the ear and looks a bit like the external part of a hearing aid: it can sense and alert the wearer about their state of health. A trial of these devices is about to start in mines in Australian where it will measure for signs of fatigue and send warnings when levels of tiredness reach unsafe levels.

Its potential to measure astronauts’ health in real time in space has also been recognised by NASA.

We speak to Alex Moss, the CEO & head designer of Canaria. ‘

-Broadcast 17th Feb 2018

We are at CES 2017

We will be at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas 5-8 January 2017 to show off our plans and the oversize prototype of the vital signs monitor we are bringing to industrial markets in 2017. Whilst our immediate research and development focus is medical uses in extreme environments we look forward to offering the same world-class technology to sports people and folks in assisted living in a couple of years. CES is our opportunity to show and discuss with the public what we are developing right now for medical, space and industrial applications and chat about what they would like to do with it. Please come and see us in Eureka Park on level 1 Hall G at Sands Expo.

We’re honoured to be amongst the top-10 companies short-listed in the 2017 Extreme Tech Challenge and will be presenting our plans on Saturday 7 January at their showcase at the Venetian at 2pm.

The oversized ‘works-like’ prototype of the Canaria vital signs monitor

Thanks to pioneering computational architect Manuel Jiminez Garcia for our prototype’s beautiful case.


Following our NASA Space Apps Challenge win at Inmarsat in London, we were invited to pitch Canaria to NASA HQ in Washington by video. Here is our pitch:

In 2017 we were invited by the Unearthed Accelerator at River City Labs to meet the Australian resources sector and begin working with them on averting disasters by properly managing cognitive fatigue in the workforce:

The Prototypes



Electronic components fitting inside earpiece


The Prototypes

Wire and plasticine prototypes of earpiece industrial design


canaria full png

3D CAD rendering of the final earpiece casing


Mission Patch

Principia Patch Case

3D CAD rendering of the CO2 detector space mission patch


The Technology

To ensure that our aesthetic design ambitions were realistic we designed the circuitry required by the device to allow us to accurately assess the space requirements needed.

From the start we knew that battery size and capacity would be one of the biggest hurdles for us to overcome to make the device useful and hassle-free for users. As one of our priorities was to minimise the mass that needed to be placed on a user’s ear, we made the decision to sacrifice battery capacity and install a wireless charging system, allowing the system to have almost continuous power supplied from an easily accessible source. This system allows the primary device power to be supplied externally, but also provides a small battery to act as a buffer, ensuring continuous data collection and transmission is maintained.

To further minimise the size of the ear–based unit we installed a combined bluetooth and processor system on chip. To measure heart rate and SO2 levels, the chip (A Nordic Semiconductor nRF52832) pulses an IR LED into the blood vessels behind the wearer’s ear. The reflected signals from this diode are then picked up by an IR detector, where changes in light intensity are converted to a varying voltage signal. This signal is then amplified by an Op-amp, operating in non-inverting amplification mode, and fed into an input on the nRF52831. The signal is sampled by the nRF52831 and temporarily stored in memory before being transferred via BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) to the user’s smartphone or to central medical server.

The circuit board is designed in a unique trapezoidal shape. In addition to the 3 mounting holes present on the board, this shape ensures the PCB is firmly secured inside the earpiece casing, ensuring the system’s longevity.



Design Priorities

Principia Patch Case crop  dual image

What it Does

The Canaria system of CO2 monitor patch and earpiece acts as a lifeline to the wearer, simultaneously monitoring their heart rate, blood oxygen, and atmospheric CO2 levels. Named after the canaries used by Victorian miners as a warning system in areas of dangerous gas pockets, the Canaria has an audible danger threshold alarm to alert the wearer when they need to head back to safety. Data is automatically transferred by Bluetooth Low Energy to Apple and Android apps or even hospital eHealth wardware using the industry-standard Bluetooth Pulse Oximetry Profile. The patch contains the C02 monitor and batteries that provide wireless charging power to the earpiece as well as sending data of CO2 levels to the monitor hardware.

The benefits of Canaria mark it out as the future of wearable tech vital signs monitoring. It’s unobtrusive and non-invasive, allowing the wearer to change clothes, sleep undisturbed, and put headphones over it without the worry of it catching onto surrounding items. It analyses large data sets meaning that as well as detecting problems in ventilation systems, it can also help to fix them by supplying feedback about problem areas. The ability to gain continuous blood oxygen and heart rate data from individuals in space provides other research benefits, allowing changes to human physiology in space to be better monitored and planning for long duration spaceflight to be improved.  Most importantly for space use, its hard 3D printable case protects the delicate microchips within from solar radiation.


More Applications

The Canaria system is primarily designed for use on long-haul space missions, aboard space stations, and for commercial use in space hotels. As well as this, Canaria has a bounty of life-saving earth-bound applications. C02 pockets remain a huge problem for mining industries and tunnelling, and the introduction of Canaria provides a solution for the reduction of casualties. Use in hospitals offers the ability for doctors to monitor whole wards of patients constantly, allowing them the opportunity to respond to critical warning signs earlier; this is especially critical for cardiac arrests, strokes and Intensive Care Units. Mountaineers require blood oxygen readings regularly when facing the pitfalls of changing altitude levels. Military applications in warzones are vast, counteracting chemical warfare as well as keeping tabs on soldiers’ vital signs.

The Idea

Canaria was created as part of the 2016 NASA Space Apps Challenge. The two major problems we wanted to solve were to find a more comfortable solution for astronauts to continually log vital medical data without impeding their experiment work, and to tackle the issue of CO2 pocket build ups within spacecrafts.

The Canaria system was inspired by the current limitations of wearable space technologies. Cumbersome clothing not only has the problem of interfering with daily movements, but is also susceptible to solar radiation when microchips are incorporated into fabrics. When researching the lives of astronauts, it became clear that there was one area of the body that had been ignored by designers: that imperceptibly small space behind the concha of the ear and the neck.

During the fast-paced ergonomics design process, one of the team had a full-blown panic about the loss of one of the key prototypes; only to realise that they had been wearing it for the previous 6 hours underneath their headphones. A testament to the non-intrusive wearability of the product and the advantage of anchoring technologies to this part of the body.

Canaria ultimately won the Global NASA Space Apps Challenge, winning the title of “Best Use of Hardware 2016” with our pitch below:

Since then we’ve worked to develop Canaria further and now have US and PCT patent-pending status on our technology and have found a range of use cases on Earth where we can make an impact. We’re excited about Canaria’s ability to prevent accidents in the mining and haulage industries and its ability to improve healthcare and make hospitals more efficient for everyone.