Piavet Sensor Technology | ECG & Heart Rate Detection

Advanced technology from Piavita brings veterinarians sophisticated solutions for monitoring equine health. One of the main things our vets love is the ability to get real-time heart rate data and see a live ECG on the Piavet Platform to track performance recovery in top sport horses and amateur athletes alike. But how do we detect heart rate? Here we will take a look at the Piavet sensor technology that enables vets to get real-time, accurate heart rate data from our easy-to-use, non-invasive hardware device. 


Piavita’s engineers and product specialists developed our Piavet technology from scratch—from the hardware to the software and everything that entails. Here we’ll take a look at the Piavet Measuring Device and its sensors. This palm-sized hardware houses multiple sensors that work together to ultimately deliver vital sign information to the Piavet Platform. But here we’ll focus on heart rate detection and ECG visualization.


Detecting a horse’s heart rate through their coat (that’s right, there’s no clipping required) and skin layers while taking environmental factors into account is no easy task, but our engineers like a challenge. We use two capacitative sensors, a 3-axis accelerometer, and an RLD (right leg drive) amplifier to detect the rhythm of the heart and give us an ECG reading from which the heart rate can be derived.


Capacitative sensing is a technology based on capacitative coupling that can detect and measure anything that is conductive or has a dielectric that is different from the surrounding air. 

Each electric impulse (from the heart, for instance) creates an electromagnetic field. The two capacitative sensors (CS) can detect micro changes in the electromagnetic field through the horse’s coat and skin (up to 7mm). These two sensors on the Piavet Measuring Device are the leads. While other ECG systems require wired leads placed on two separate parts of the body, the Piavet System enables a true ECG from a single contact point on the horse’s left side.  


RLD (or right leg drive) is an electric circuit often added to biological signal amplifiers (e.g. ECG circuits) to reduce common-mode interference. ECG circuits measure small electrical signals emitted by the body, but the body often acts as an antenna and picks up electromagnetic interference, which can obscure the biological signals. 

The RLD grounding plate on the Piavet Measuring Device establishes a baseline that helps focus the impulse to the device, ultimately eliminating any interference noise. The RLD amplifier makes it possible to measure subtle changes very precisely, thereby increasing the stability of the measurement.


The accelerometer then comes into play to help filter the data. Accelerometers are used in a host of machines and devices from biology to engineering. Basically, an accelerometer is an electromechanical device used to measure acceleration forces. Forces may be static, like the continuous force of gravity, or dynamic to sense movement or vibrations, as is the case with smartphones. The Piavet Measuring Device houses a 3-axis accelerometer that senses pitch, yaw and roll. 


But how does all this sensor data become information vets can use? The packages of vital sign data collected by the Piavet Measuring Device are transferred once per second to the Base Station via long range Bluetooth technology. These data packages include all vital sign data taken during a live measurement. 

Once the Base Station receives the data, some information for data recognition is added, but its main job is to transfer the data to the Piavet Cloud Applications. This is where the magic happens! 

Using digital signal processing and sophisticated algorithms, the cardiac data input is transformed—at a rate of 250 data points per second—into readable values and information such as ECG, RR intervals, and R-wave peaks. Heart rate is calculated based on the ECG peaks over a 20-second period.


Equine vets can enjoy having not only live, real-time access to vital sign measurements, but can also view historical information on any patient in their account. 

In the Piavet Database, we securely store all measurement data for your reference, analysis and research. In Live Mode, customers can see a patient’s heart rate and interpret the ECG while the system is running a measurement. And they can also access past measurements at any time from our measurement archive. 

At Piavita, we like happy vets and healthy horses. It’s that simple. Our mission it to transform veterinary care by providing remote health monitoring technology to the veterinary industry. With a non-invasive, sensor-enabled hardware device and sophisticated software platform, the Piavet Solution automates and digitizes repetitive, manual tasks to help vets save time and improve patient outcomes. We are a diverse group of engineers, developers, researchers, and horse people with a passion for delivering meaningful solutions to veterinarians. We operate out of offices in Zürich, Berlin, and North Carolina. 

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