SAREF4health: Towards IoT standard-based ontology-driven cardiac e-health systems

João Moreira*, Luís Ferreira Pires, Marten van Sinderen, Laura Daniele, Marc Girod-Genet

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
125 Downloads (Pure)


Recently, a number of ontology-driven healthcare systems have been leveraged by the Internet-of-Things (IoT) technologies that offer opportunities to improve abnormal situation detection when integrating medical wearables and cloud infrastructure. Usually, these systems rely on standardised IoT ontologies to represent sensor data observations. The ETSI Smart Applications REFerence ontology (SAREF) is an extensible industry-oriented standard. In this paper, we explain the need for interoperability of IoT healthcare applications and the role of standardised ontologies to achieve semantic interoperability. In particular, we discuss the verbosity problem of SAREF when used for real-time electrocardiography (ECG), emphasizing the requirement of representing time series. We compared the main ontologies in this context, according to quality, message size (payload), IoT-orientation and standardisation. Here we describe the first attempt to extend SAREF for specific e-Health use cases related to ECG data, the SAREF4health extension, which tackles the verbosity problem. Ontology-driven conceptual modelling was applied to develop SAREF4health, in which an ECG ontology grounded in the Unified Foundational Ontology (UFO), which plays the role of a reference model. The methodology was enhanced by following a standardisation procedure and considering the RDF implementation of the HL7 Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) standard. The validation of SAREF4health includes the responses to competency questions, as well as the development and tests of an IoT Early Warning System prototype that uses ECG data and collision identification to detect accidents with truck drivers in a port area. This prototype integrates an existing ECG wearable with a cloud infrastructure, demonstrating the performance impact of SAREF4health considering IoT constraints. Our results show that SAREF4health enables the semantic interoperability of IoT solutions that need to deal with frequency-based time series. Design decisions regarding the trade-off between ontology quality and aggregation representation are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)385-410
Number of pages26
JournalApplied ontology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020


  • ECG
  • Internet of Things
  • ontology-driven conceptual modelling
  • Ontology-driven healthcare


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