Report on the XIV International Symposium on Biotelemetry

(T. Penzel, Symposium Chairman)


Venue of the conference
The XIV International Symposium on Biotelemetry was held in Marburg, Germany, from April 6 - 11, 1997. Marburg is a small university town in the center of Germany, located 100 km north of Frankfurt/Main, with nice surroundings. The Philipps-University, founded by Landgrave Philipp the Magnanimous in 1527, was the first protestant university in the world. Many professors and former students gained extraordinary reputation in science, economy, arts, or politics: for example, the brothers Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm, world-famous for their collections of fairy-tales, and the Nobel Prize winners Emil von Behring (medicine), Ferdinand Braun (physics), Otto Hahn (chemistry), and Boris Pasternak (literature).

Marburg was selected during the previous symposium in Williamsburg, USA, 1995, because several scientific groups of the Philipps-University are carrying out research in the field of biotelemetry and similar areas, such as the Sleep Laboratory, Marburg in the field of medicine, physiology and pharmacology (Experimental Physiology), occupational physiology (Health and Safety at Work, Rehabilitation), and biology (desert mice).

As during the last meetings, five days of presentation covered the broad spectrum of technology and applications. The symposium brought together 96 scientists and 27 students from all over the world. Altogether, 67 oral presentations were given and 10 posters were presented. Only two presentations had to be cancelled because the speakers had fallen ill. The symposium was partially supported by a grant from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Germany (German Research Association). The scientific program of the 14th International Symposium on Biotelemetry was organized in 12 sessions.

Technology for Biotelemetry
In this extensive session modern technology and applications were presented. They focused on telemetric sensors with low power consumption. Passive telemetry that is often used in implanted electronic devices has been improved and can now be used in the field of rehabilitation. Miniaturization of electronic devices has been further developed and an ECG transmitter with a weight of only 350 mg has been constructed. It is used for transmitting the ECG of 10 - 20 g nectar-feeding bats.

Optical Telemetry
The reliability of infrared telemetry has been extended, and offers a particular use that no electromagnetic disturbances are produced. Although limited by its range and confined to a small space, infrared telemetry and data transmission have been optimized. New techniques with larger ranges were presented.

Sensors in Telemetry
Considerable advances have been achieved in the development of sensors during the last years. Sensors based on ion selective electrodes and enzymes that had been tested with primates in space were presented by NASA. Implanted biochemical sensors might replace the need for blood collection.

Both telemedicine and biotelemetry are using automated computer-assisted signal processing and long-distance data transmission via Internet connections and GSM or ISDN networks. Intracardiac ECG records from all over the world can be transmitted to a central personal computer. After the data has been analyzed, the findings can be returned immediately.

Clinical Medicine, Sleep Medicine and Pneumology
The recording of specific sleep disorders like somnambulism requires telemetry for the diagnostic process. Today, Clinical Medicine tends to use portable miniaturized recording systems except for continuous monitoring needs.

Implantable Telemetry
Implants operating with telemetric data transmission serve for diagnosing processes, therapeutic purposes, and pure research in the field of physiology and pharmacology. A new example of use is the muscle stimulation triggered by ECG in patients with cardiomyotomy who had had operations. Muscles are partially detached, taken inside the chest and wrapped around the ventricles of the heart. This procedure can help to overcome the waiting period for heart transplants.

ECG Monitoring and Processing
New methods for data compression were presented that are applied to reduce the voluminous data of electrocardiography. A highly interesting application was demonstrated with the telemetric ECG monitoring of Formula one drivers during world championship races. Exceptionally high heart rates of 170 bpm were measured at curves, when the physical and psychological stress increases.

Blood Pressure Monitoring
This session focused on different methods of ambulatory blood pressure monitoring. The use of 24 hour recordings should be emphasized in clinical practice to replace casual blood pressure measurements.

Telemetry in Wildlife and Small Animals
Biotelemetric long-term studies proved that heart rate patterns of red deer are influenced by both daily and seasonal activity. Natural habitats of Przewalski horses could be investigated on the basis of their water intake behaviour. Individual and monthly variations in quantitative water consumption were depicted.

Underwater Telemetry
In the Netherlands a new technique based on telemetry is being tested to examine the ecological damage in the Lower Rhine. Studies on spawning migration of Sea Trout from the Dutch coastal area of the North Sea to the Lower Rhine showed the difficulties connected with physical obstacles like sluices in the river which cannot be surmounted by the trout. It could be proved that the swimming depth of hunting Japanese sharks reaches 2000 meters.

Telemetry in Birds
Different dialects of golden orioles could be identified by telemetric means. The values of heart rates measured via telemetry can help to determine the size of nature reserves including breeding grounds. Examinations on electronic smog demonstrated that high voltage has no influence on the very sensitive heart rate of blackbirds.

Satellite Telemetry
The Argos System provides a worldwide in-situ environmental data collection. Animals migrating all over the world can be tracked over long distances and their positions can be measured regularly. The migration routes of sea turtles from Japan to the Eastern coast of the United States of America could be detected. To improve the collection of animal positions in the field, sensors will be equipped with GPS in the future. It is hoped that the tracking of migratory birds and herds of wild animals in Africa can be improved with the help of this technique.

During the symposium technical advances in the different fields of biotelemetry were presented and numerous exciting examples of application could be demonstrated. The discussions were very vivacious and profitable for all participants as in previous ISOB meetings. The scientific program was accompanied by a social program featuring an organ concert in the famous St. Elisabeth's Church, an excursion to the town of Fulda with its baroque architecture, and a banquet at the historic castle of Marburg.

The Proceedings of the XIV International Symposium on Biotelemetry were published by the end of April, 1998, and contain 460 pages. The 12 chapters correspond to the sessions of the scientific program presented during the symposium.

Back to Top