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Wearables help prevent asthma attacks

Sport & Fitness

HET is a wearable system that monitors the user's surroundings and personal condition to predict asthma attacks in time to prevent them.

Asthma affects over 24 million Americans, many of whom suffer from debilitating attacks. These are usually brought on by environmental factors such as bad air quality or humidity, and while sufferers can often sense an impending attack, sometimes it is too late to prevent it. Now, the Health and Environmental Tracker system — HET — created by researchers at North Carolina State University’s Assist Center, is a wearable system that monitors the user’s surroundings and personal condition to predict asthma attacks in time to avert them.


HET is comprised of a wristband and chest patch, both containing sensors. The patch monitors the wearer’s condition: their movement, heart rate, respiratory rate, the amount of oxygen in the blood and any wheezing in the lungs. The wristband monitors the wearer’s surroundings, watching out for volatile organic compounds and ozone in the air, as well as the temperature and humidity. There is also a spirometer, which patients breathe into throughout the day to measure their lung function. All the data will then be transferred wirelessly and processed by a smartphone, which will be able to warn the wearer of an impending attack, giving them time to change their environment — for example by resting or going indoors — and improve their condition.

HET is currently in the prototype stage and will undergo further testing this summer. We have already seen WEMU — a sensor-laden shirt that can help detect epileptic seizures. Are there any other chronic illnesses that could be monitored and managed with wearables?

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