Researchers worldwide continue to develop important COVID-19-related technology. We recently wrote about iWeeCare’s Temp Pal wearable smart thermometer designed to monitor temperature continuously that has been adopted by health care workers concerned about their exposure to the virus. We also wrote about Whoop’s wearable and respiratory rate monitoring platform that can indicate the early stages of COVID-19.

Researchers at Northwestern University‘s engineering department and Shirley Ryan Activity Lab in Chicago developed a wireless sensor worn on the throat that monitors coughs, fever, and respiratory activity. The data from the patch can be processed by AI algorithms to flag early COVID-19 signs and symptoms. According to a Northwestern news release, the patch measures and interprets respiratory data and coughs in unique manners that are beyond the capabilities of conventional monitoring technologies.

Users wear the Northwestern patch at the base of the throat. Sensors in the patch track cough intensity and patterns, chest wall movements, respiratory sounds, heart rate, and body temperature. The patch transmits data wirelessly to a HIPAA-protected cloud service. The algorithms, which were written by Shirley Ryan AbilityLab scientists, automatically create graphical summaries of the data.

Approximately 25 COVID-19 patients and attending healthcare workers use the throat patch in an ongoing study at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab and at home. One purpose of the study is to identify the patterns in patients with unexpected rapid deterioration after the patients’ symptoms cease. Another focus of the current study is to learn more about recovered patients who test negative for COVID-19 but then test positive at a later date.

According to Arun Jayaraman, a Shirley Ryan AbilityLab research scientist and the leader of the algorithm development team, “These sensors have the potential to unlock information that will protect front-line medical workers and patients alike — informing interventions in a timely manner to reduce the risk of transmission and increase the likelihood of better outcomes.”