The news outlet reported today that Sen was charged with developing tones that warn users about an array of problems, like a dead battery or Wi-Fi connectivity issues. Sen is now working to create patterns and tones for Medtronic’s system that are easily distinguishable and recognizable.
The system that Sen is working on is a bedside monitor that communicates with Medtronic’s implantable cardiac devices, STAT reported. Sen dealt with her own illness in 2014 and knows first-hand about the cacophony of beeping that can come from medical devices. She is hoping to create a set of sounds that are informative and relay a message of urgency but aren’t overwhelming or off-putting.
It’s a task that many before her have tried to accomplish, according to the report from STAT. In the ’80’s, a psycho-acoustician named Roy Patterson proposed seven pairs of sounds, each designed to alert nurses and doctors to specific problems. Eventually, the task of setting standard alarm sounds for medical devices fell to the International Organization for Standardization, which teamed up with the International Electrotechnical Commission.
Together, alongside a group of musicians, they developed a system: three beats for semi-urgent alarms and five beats for urgent alarms. Although this system became the standard in 2003, many have since criticized the tones for being easily confused and hard to distinguish.
Sen, who has spent time creating sound maps of hospitals to prepare for her work, is working with a scientist at Medtronic to rethink the way patients are alerted about their home-based heart monitors. She’s played around with different melodies, unique tones and patterns, STAT reported. It will be a while before patients get to hear her work though, as Medtronic’s monitor is still in development.