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June 2, 2016

Health and Environmental Tracker helps to prevent asthma attacks

More and more, wearable devices are being developed not just to monitor body functions like someones heart rate, but also to prevent medical conditions from worsening or happening by predicting an event.

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Recently for example, a wearable patch was introduced that can help to predict a heart attack. Now, researchers at the North Carolina State Universityare working on a wearable system that may help predict the onset of asthma attacks, letting patients avoid risky places and situations.

Currently the system is called Health and Environmental Tracker (HET). It consists of a wrist-worn device, a stick-on chest patch, and a spirometer. Its goal is to let people who suffer from asthma, avoid risky places and situations.

The patch and tracker combine to collect data on the user’s heart and respiratory rates, e.g. how someone is moving, blood oxygenation, skin impedance, wheezing in the lungs. Next to this ‘live’ environmental factors such as temperature and humidity, the amount of ozone and volatile organic compounds in the air are taken into account.

The spirometer is used a few times a day to assess lung function. All the obtained data is then crunched by custom software to provide evaluation and guidance to the patient throughout the day.

High power consumption

Since the system uses a lot of sensors, one of the challenges the engineers working on the project had to overcome was high power demands from so many sensors. They managed to reduce consumption so that the technology could last throughout the day on a reasonably sized battery.  The HET-system is still far from a commercial launch. So far testing was mostly done in the lab and on a few real humans, but plans are in the works to conduct a considerably more involved trial.

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