Sensor Technology Saving Lives through Wearables

By StartUp City | Thursday, January 07, 2021

The case of the opioid epidemic in the U.S. is a classic example of a situation where wearables have been used to save lives. The outbreak is estimated to claim more than 115 lives a day. Opioids are widely overprescribed, with studies suggesting that for every 100 Americans, 58 opioid prescriptions are written

FREMONT, CA: The word 'wearables' is often associated with flashy fitness trackers and sleek, smartwatches. However, technology today has become an essential part of the health tech, pushing the boundaries of imagination and science. Wearable technology can be used to perform a wide range of functions, from simple step-counting devices to ones that use pulse oximetry or even the composition of one’s sweat to determine various physical parameters. This new generation of wearables leverages sensor technology in combination with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (MI) to help monitor vitals.

The case of the opioid epidemic in the U.S. is a classic example of a situation where wearables have been used to save lives. The outbreak is estimated to claim more than 115 lives a day. Opioids are widely overprescribed, with studies suggesting that for every 100 Americans, 58 opioid prescriptions are written. This has led to rapidly rising levels of addiction, overdose, and death. The epidemic caused a real health crisis, with both public and private sectors scrambling for solutions. In May 2018, the FDA launched its innovation challenge hackathon to crowdsource creative solutions to the problem. Over 250 responses came in.

One of the responses which won the contest was a wearable wristband created by students from Carnegie Mellon University called the Hope Band. The band was designed to be worn by at-risk addicts. The Hope Band uses pulse oximetry, which shines light from LEDs through the skin. The sensors work to pick up any changes in the light absorption. This makes for a good predictor for oxygen levels in the blood and the most reliable indicator of an overdose.

If the device detects a drop in the oxygen levels to dangerous lows, it continues to monitor for an additional 10 seconds to rule out any false positives. If the overdose is still being detected, then the band sounds an alarm with flashing lights, giving adequate warning to patients and those nearby. The device can also be connected to a smartphone, which would call emergency services or alert a contact person in the case of a detected overdose. Such early alerting systems can help first responders to administer naloxone, a drug used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

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