Scientists at the North Carolina State University are developing a new wearable system, known as the Health and Environmental Tracker device (HET), to help asthmatics avoid future asthma attacks.

The HET device is a three part system of integrated sensors that are designed to combine both environmental and metabolic information to allow those suffering from asthma to receive advance warning about the risk of a potential attack, based on the collected data.

The first of the three parts that make up the HET system is a wrist-worn, watch-like sensor that collects environmental data on asthma aggravating factors such as the ambient temperature and volatile organic compounds.

The second part of the system is a chest-worn sensor patch that measures metabolic information such as heart rate, blood oxygen levels and breaths-per-minute.

The final part is a pocket spirometer, which measures lung ventilation and air capacity.

In contrast to other Asthma devices, these three devices are integrated via Bluetooth technology and linked to a mobile phone or computer. The system is also the first of its kind to combine both environmental and metabolic information for analysis and asthma prevention.

Preliminary testing results published in the IEEE Journal of Biomedical and Health Informatics indicate that the HET device  is capable of helping to prevent asthma attacks, but further testing though controlled experiments is planned in the future.

Currently the system is battery powered, but the research team intends to upgrade it by modifying the system to be powered by the human body itself.

Principle investigator for the study, Alper Bozkurt from NC State, suggested that future systems could have much greater functionality, such as monitoring diabetes and medicine management and compliance.

“Our long-term goal is to provide a self-powered system for wellness detection,” said Bozkurt.

If future testing goes well, Bozkurt hopes that the HET device will be market ready in four to five years, adding that the final body-powered version is projected to cost $50 per unit.

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