Coronavirus Diagnosis: Band-Aid-Like Device Identifies, Tracks COVID-19 Symptoms

Monitoring the symptoms of COVID-19 may soon be as easy as putting a Band-Aid on your skin. Researchers have developed a new wearable device that sits on the throat to continuously track the user’s condition. 

The team from Northwestern University and the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab designed the device to be flexible and noninvasive. It appears like a regular patch with a wireless sensor that monitors coughing and breathing problems that may indicate COVID-19, CNET reported Monday.

Users place the wearable device on the skin below the suprasternal notch, the spot where the throat and chest meet. It is also the area where airflow is closest to the skin.

"We don't use a microphone," John Rogers, director of Northwestern University's Center on Bio-Integrated Electronics, said. "We use a high-bandwidth, tri-axis accelerometer to measure movement of the surface of the skin."

To transfer data from the patch, the user should peel it off once a day and place it on a wireless charger. There it will then sync its stored data with a connected iPad and upload it to the cloud.

Researchers said an artificial intelligence-based algorithm will examine data from the wearable device and determine change in the condition of the user that could be associated with COVID-19. 

"We like AI, but we're not wedded to it. We're wedded to things that work," Rogers said. "We use digital filtering algorithms that look for particular signatures in the data. We're looking for trends, not an absolute gold standard measurement. And we have a good understanding of the underlying physics." 

However, a human operator is still involved in analyzing the data from the patch. It checks the initial findings from the AI algorithm before sending information to health care providers. 

Researchers have already started testing the COVID-19 detecting patch with 25 people. The team said the device still has some limitations. 

It lacks a blood oxygen perfusion sensor, which has been shown effective in recent studies to determine potential coronavirus infections. Rogers said the team plans to add a similar sensor to the patch in the near future. 

A lab at Northwestern University currently produces dozens of the patches a week. If the wearable tech appears effective to track the onset and progression of COVID-19, the lab would increase production rate to hundreds per week for future commercial use. 

Northwestern COVID-19 Patch Researchers from Northwestern University and the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab developed a new wearable device that can continuously track symptoms of COVID-19. Northwestern University

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