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Protecting the Beat Of Life: Test Center Studies Interaction Between Pacemakers & Electronic Article Surveillance Systems

As electronic components become smaller and smarter, they allow development of increasingly sophisticated pacemakers, implantable defibrillators and other medical devices that have already improved life for more than a million people worldwide. At the same time, growing concern about theft from retail stores has led to widespread use of electronic article surveillance (EAS) systems that generate fields of electromagnetic energy while in operation.

Those electromagnetic fields can potentially interfere with operation of the sensitive medical devices, causing concern for some store customers using pacemakers or implantable defibrillators.

Researchers at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) are working with manufacturers of both types of equipment to understand — and therefore help prevent — potentially harmful interactions. The work takes place at the EAS/Medical Device E3 Test Center, a unique facility supported by manufacturers of the electronic article surveillance systems.

"As both groups of manufacturers learn more about one another, there will be fewer and fewer potential interactions," said GTRI Senior Research Engineer Jimmy A. Woody, manager of the test center. "What's unique here is that the manufacturers of the energy source and the manufacturers of the medical devices are cooperating to set up and use a test center that benefits both groups."

Support to set up the test center came from the International Electronic Article Surveillance Manufacturers Association (IEASMA), which estimates that 400,000 EAS systems are used worldwide. Typically placed near store exits and entrances, the EAS systems use electromagnetic energy to detect special tags placed on items stores wish to protect.

In the test center, Woody and Research Engineer Ralph M. Herkert subject pacemakers, defibrillators and other devices
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Contact: John Toon
john.toon@edi.gatech.edu
404-894-6986
Georgia Institute of Technology Research News
28-May-1998


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