NSF funds ‘Wearable Doctor’

A decade-long development effort to pair a wrist-worn wearable with a chest patch and a handheld breath analysis unit is coming to fruition. The effort involved as many as 40 researchers and will monitor a patient’s health and the environment simultaneously.

The wearable Health and Environmental Tracker (HET) aims to anticipate, for instance, an oncoming asthma attack and recommend immediate action to thwart the event. Researchers hope that, eventually, most any chronic malady can be similarly addressed by such sensor studded wearables powered by energy harvested from the patients own body. To address this issue, the National Science Foundation (NSF) is funding the Advanced Self-Powered Systems of Integrated Sensors and Technologies (Assist) project with up to $40 million.

Yole Medtech wrist worn

The prototype three-piece sensor pods connect together to wrap around the wrist of the patient to monitor movement, heart rate, respiratory rate, the amount of oxygen in the blood, skin impedance and wheezing in the lungs.
(Source: NCSU)

“This study for the NSF’s Assist is going to be powered by the patient’s own body, to monitor their health as well as the environment,” principal investigator professor Alper Bozkurt told EE Times. Bozkurt, however, credits his doctoral candidate James Dieffenderfer at the North Carolina State University (NCSU, Raleigh) for most of the work done to realize the HET.

Yole Medtech Prototype

The first prototype of the Health and Environmental Tracker (HET) chest patch is larger and thicker than the final model due to be commercialized circa 2020. Photo credit: James Dieffenderfer 
(Source: NCSU)

The HET project, now in its fourth of 10 years, recently came out of the closet with its first functional prototype (see photos) which it plans to begin human trials with later this year, starting with asthma. The work is being done at the National Science Foundation’s Nanosystems Engineering Research Center for ASSIST at North Carolina State University

“We are targeting asthma attacks first, in cooperation with partners at the University of North Carolina (UNC, Chappel Hill),” Bozlurt said. “The Environmental Protection Agency told us the correct wellness and environmental-parameters we needed to monitor in order to anticipate asthma attacks.”