Nottingham Trent University has partnered up with the University of Southampton and the University Hospital Southampton to create a wearable sticker that continuously measures respiration.
A person’s respiratory rate – the number of breaths per minute – is an effective early indicator of deterioration in a patient’s health.
This can be an early warning sign for deterioration in a number of diseases, including sepsis and COVID-19.
This work, which also involves the med-tech company Zelemiq Ltd, is made possible by almost £1m from the National Institute for Health and Research.
The device itself will be about the size of a watch face, and with a small and sensitive respiratory sensor will be able to measure the expansion and contraction of the lungs.
This can be done without direct contact with the skin.
The three-year project will involve clinicians and engineers.
There will also be public and patient involvement in the project in order to ensure optimal performance and comfort.
After the device has been developed, a clinical trial will run with the aim of achieving regulatory approval in the NHS.
The research team says that the sticker could also be used at home, as well as in hospitals.
As it is cheap and will be easy to mass-produce, healthy people could wear it as well.
The system will also display the patient’s history of their respiration rate in order to establish long term trends.
This data will be displayed onto a specific app, allowing for results to be viewed with ease.
This device, based on the idea of a ‘capacitor reflector’ used and developed by NASA, is a proximity sensor for collision detection in robots.
Some of the team’s earlier work found that attaching such a device to the chest can also detect breathing patterns.
“Every year thousands of lives are lost due to sepsis and late detection of respiratory disease,” said researcher Dr Yang Wei, an expert in electronic textiles and electronic engineering at Nottingham Trent University’s School of Science and Technology.
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