This lab turns alarms into music

Alarms in intensive care units no longer have to be a nuisance. The Critical Alarms Lab developed environment-friendly sounds for patients, nurses and clinicians.

The Critical Alarms Lab developed environment-friendly sounds for patients, nurses and clinicians. (Photo: TU Delft TV)

The Critical Alarms Lab strives to shape the future of audible, visual and haptic information design in complex environments. With a current focus on sound in healthcare, the lab unites students, researchers, academic hospitals, industry, and regulatory agencies to tackle critical alarm systems.

“When we started the lab, our main focus was on the problems that alarms cause in intensive care units (ICUs),” says Dr Elif Ozcan Vieira. “We have now come up with three different solutions to reduce the number of alarms as well as create a healthier auditory environment for the patients of intensive care units (ICUs).”

  • Altimo

    This is a silent monitor by default, explains Ozcan Vieira. “When the patient is alone in the room the monitor will not trigger any alarms, but when a clinician enters the room the machine is activated and triggers alarms when necessary. However, when family is with the patient, the only information displayed is the heart rate.”

  • Care Tunes

    This graduation project by Koen Bogers shows what can be done with the excessive use of alarms in ICUs. “Care Tunes turns alarms into music. Every patient is represented by a personal composition and musical updates function as an actual working tool for nurses. When a parameter changes, it does not generate an alarm sound, but plays music as a way of updating the information.”

  • Doplor

    This machine displays sounds that are becoming a disturbance creatively. Every sound is registered and converted into an interactive painting. The higher the volume, the rougher the seas and the darker the clouds. “It warns nurses subtly if the ICU has a healthy or hostile auditory environment,” explains Ozcan Vieira.

The idea behind the Critical Alarms Lab is to involve every stakeholder right from the start of the decision making process and help them understand what it takes to make a medical innovation. “The projects that we do at the lab are also good examples of how a technical school can collaborate with a medical school. The synergy between these schools can generate multiple opportunities for innovation,” concludes Ozcan Vieira.

  • TU Delft TV shot a short documentary on the Critical Alarms Lab. Make sure to watch it below.