As countries around the world scramble to conduct sufficient COVID-19 testing, there is now an urgent need for the design of rapid diagnostics of early symptoms to identify potential carriers to test, and eventually, isolate them. Researchers and the so-called "health tech" and "wearables' sector are racing to release new devices, and adapt existing ones, to help the early detection and identification of the virus.
Smart wristband: The Indian healthcare platform GOQii is launching GOQii Vital 3.0, a smart wristband that can track vitals such as body temperature, blood pressure and heart rate, The Times of India reports. Thanks to an inbuilt temperature display and thermal sensors, the device could help detect one of the early symptom of the virus, which is high body temperature. It could also help health workers such as nurses and doctors, as well as patients check their temperature without any human contact. The company has partnered with German health tech startup Thryve to conduct a clinical study in India to test the accuracy of early detection of infections. GOQii has donated 1,000 of its smart wristbands to Mumbai Police and is in talks with governments, hospitals and private enterprises. The GOQii Vital 3.0 will also be soon available for sale to the public on platforms such as Amazon.
Mask detector: Researchers from MIT and Harvard in the United States are adapting the technology they developed to detect viruses causing Zika and Ebola to identify COVID-19. The team has designed a face mask with a sensor that produces a fluorescent signal when a person infected with the virus coughs, breathes or sneezes. The project is still in the "very early stages' bioengineer Jim Collins told Business Insider, but the first results have been promising. The sensors could offer a cheaper and quicker way to detect the virus as traditional diagnostic tests can take about 24 hours to run, compared to one to three hours for the mask. The laboratory hopes to begin mass manufacturing by the end of summer.
Fever-detecting helmet: Chinese startup KC Wearable launched smart helmets at the end of April for public officers and health workers, that allow them to detect high temperatures in people from up to 5 meters way. According to China Daily, the company, which has conducted millions of tests in several Chinese cities, says that the helmets can scan the temperatures of around 200 individuals in one minute thanks to an infrared camera connected to an AR headset. Since then the company has sent helmets to Italy's carabinieri military police and to the Netherlands for testing, as well as to the police in Dubai, among others.
The device can be worn on the throat, like a patch — Photo: Northwestern University
Sneezing on a smartphone: Professor Massood Tabib-Azar, an engineer at the University of Utah in the United States is leading a project to create a sensor that users can plug into their smartphones' charging port and that can tell whether they are infected or not within one minute if they sneeze or cough on it, International Business Times reports. The project was started last year originally to fight the Zika virus but is now being adapted to detect COVID-19 instead. The inch-wide sensor communicates with the smartphone via Bluetooth and is reusable, as it can destroy a previous sample with a small electrical current. It could be available to the public as soon as August and would cost around $55.
Smart throat patch: An engineering laboratory at Northwestern University in the United States has created a soft and flexible wearable sensor that is about the size of a stamp and can be worn on the throat, like a patch. The device monitors coughing, respiratory activity as well as temperature and heart rate by measuring motions that appear at the surface of a skin, in the same way a stethoscope does. Through a set of data algorithms, the sensor, which was designed initially to monitor speaking functions in stroke survivors, can now catch and identify early signs and symptoms of the virus. The device is currently being tested on 25 people including patients and healthcare workers.
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