The more we learn about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the more unknowns seem to arise. These ever-emerging mysteries highlight the desperate need for more data to help researchers and physicians better understand—and treat—the extremely contagious and deadly disease.
Researchers at Northwestern University and Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago have developed a novel wearable device and are creating a set of data algorithms specifically tailored to catch early signs and symptoms associated with COVID-19 and to monitor patients as the illness progresses.
Capable of being worn 24/7, the device produces continuous streams of data and uses artificial intelligence to uncover subtle, but potentially life-saving, insights. Filling a vital data gap, it continuously measures and interprets coughing and respiratory activity in ways that are impossible with traditional monitoring systems.
Developed in an engineering laboratory at Northwestern and using custom algorithms being created by Shirley Ryan AbilityLab scientists, the devices are currently being used at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab by COVID-19 patients and the healthcare workers who treat them. About 25 affected individuals began using the devices two weeks ago. They are being monitored both in the clinic and at home, totaling more than 1,500 cumulative hours and generating more than one terabyte of data.
About the size of a postage stamp, the soft, flexible, wireless, thin device sits just below the suprasternal notch—the visible dip at the base of the throat. From this location, the device monitors coughing intensity and patterns, chest wall movements (which indicate labored or irregular breathing), respiratory sounds, heart rate and body temperature, including fever. From there, it wirelessly transmits data to a HIPAA-protected cloud, where automated algorithms produce graphical summaries tailored to facilitate rapid, remote monitoring.
“The most recent studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggest that the earliest signs of