Premature Baby

 “The approach we’ve adopted in collaboration with IBM will help shape the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) of the future, where we can integrate all vital signs monitoring including heart rate, blood pressure, oxygenation, and brain activity into measures that provide useful information for the clinician.”

(Professor Geraldine Boylan, Director at INFANT)

One of the biggest problems with the care of small, sick and premature babies is the fact that they can be prone to seizures and other brain complications.

Seizures or fits in newborn babies are classed as a medical emergency and require urgent treatment. However, they are impossible to detect without continuous brain monitoring using EEG.

Specialist expertise is required for EEG interpretation and, all too often, no such expert is on-hand in neonatal intensive care units, which can result in important brain events being missed. Continuous monitoring of major vital signs is critical to aiding the clinical management of frequent complications associated with sick infants.

However an innovative solution has just been found. The Irish Centre for Fetal and Neonatal Translational Research (INFANT) at University College Cork (UCC) has teamed up with IBM to produce an alarm system for on-call specialists that will send an alert when seizures and other brain complications are detected.

How it works

Step 1

The INFANT Centre at UCC and Cork University Maternity Hospital shared its extensive database of newborn electroencephalogram (EEG) recordings and machine learning expertise with IBM.

Step 2

IBM’s Big Data Analytics stream processing capability used the INFANT database to create a unique clinical decision support platform.

Step 3

IBM provided a stream computing platform to aid decision support in the NICU through the ‘‘Babylink” project. Using IBM Big Data & Analytics based on InfoSphere Streams technology, this platform will allow the transmission of raw physiological data from the cot-side.

The Process

  • Numeri binari, programmazione, computerThe platform takes the stream of data from sensors monitoring the baby,
  • It then interprets that data using algorithms created by INFANT engineers,
  • It sends alerts back to an NICU monitor.
  • Surveillance service can be provided to multiple hospital rooms, or even multiple wards, in one location.
  • The data moves and not the baby – crucial in saving time and minimising disturbance when dealing with infants in intensive care.
  • Results can be securely viewed from any user authorised web-enabled terminal, PC, tablet or smartphone.
  • To protect patient confidentiality, individual patient data is de-coupled from the monitoring alert data.


The initial phase of the Babylink project has focused on establishing the infrastructure for connecting EEG data on to the stream computing platform and integration with INFANT’s Neonatal Seizure Detection Algorithm (NSDA).

INFANT Engineers have developed the NSDA which will identify the threshold at which action needs to be taken (ie: what is a seizure and what is not).

This algorithm is the best performing algorithm available for neonatal seizure detection today. The integration of other physiological signals in the NICU can be easily incorporated into this architecture.

Watch: Baby Brainwaves

Professor Boylan added:

“Computers can process this vast amount of information faster than humans.  Analytics that can interrogate this data could change the face of neonatology and improve outcomes for the sickest and most vulnerable members of society.”

Watch: Dixit Shah, Big Data and Analytics Leader, IBM UK and Ireland.

Read More:

Previous Article:  Do you know what a baby’s brain sounds like?

For more information:

INFANT is a recognised world leader in this space, and their algorithm research is funded by Science Foundation Ireland and the Wellcome Trust.

For more information about IBM Big Data Analytics, visit:

For more information about IBM InfoSphere Streams technology, visit:

For more information about the Irish Centre for Fetal and Neonatal Translational Research (INFANT) at University College Cork, visit: