Wearable device detects early signs of COVID-19 infection

Posted at 2:15 PM, Dec 09, 2020

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — As we work to manage the pressure of the pandemic, a new device could take away some of the stress.

San Diego State University (SDSU) engineers, biologists, mathematicians, computer scientists, and public health experts have worked together to develop a wearable device for early, remote detection of lung function abnormalities.

“Knowing the current status of our health, I think that will give a lot of benefit," said Kee Moon, a researcher, and professor of mechanical engineering at SDSU.

The size of a Band-Aid, the wearable device contains medical-grade sensors, collecting more than 4,000 data points per second. Placed on a person’s chest, it monitors heart and lung health, looking for problems in real-time.

The device can detect abnormalities in the lungs before a person shows COVID-19 symptoms, alerting doctors before there’s a true emergency, and hopefully preventing hospitalizations.

By monitoring heart health, users can also get a better sense of their stress levels.

“Understanding the level of stress you’re getting is important, as important as the other physical health monitoring," said Moon.

Moon was already working on the technology before the pandemic to monitor other health conditions like asthma, COPD, sleep apnea, and lung cancer. But COVID-19 accelerated and pivoted the focus of the research.

The team hopes to license the technology to a company that can produce and sell the device, likely at a price of around a few hundred dollars.

“Seeing that would be a tremendous joy for me," said Moon.

Moon is hopeful the wearable could be sold next year and that it will continue helping patients after the pandemic is over, delivering a sense of control in a time of such uncertainty.