Seniors, particularly those living in nursing homes, are vulnerable to aspiration pneumonia. This potentially deadly condition occurs due to impaired swallowing ability. GOKURI, a wearable neckband exhibited at CES 2021, monitors patient swallowing to help avoid the conditions that lead to aspiration pneumonia.

Aspiration pneumonia occurs when incomplete swallowing results in the lungs inhaling food particles. These particles can introduce bacteria within the lungs, leading to pneumonia. Risk factors for aspiration pneumonia include being over 65 years of age, stroke, throat cancer, Parkinson’s disease, lung disease, dementia, and many other conditions.

Developed by the Japanese start-up PLIMES (an off-shoot company of the University of Tsukuba), GOKURI quantifies the user’s swallowing using a range of biometric measures. The device measures and records the duration, frequency, and variability of swallows, as well as coughs and other types of irregular breathing. It also measures neck-posture angle, heart rate, blood oxygen saturation, and body temperature.

The neckband interfaces with a mobile app that transmits these measurements to the cloud for analysis. Using AI algorithms, the cloud system identifies issues that might prevent complete swallowing. Providers can view the analysis and data on a comprehensive dashboard to assist with risk-identification, diagnosis, remote patient monitoring, and emergency response.

The GOKURI system also allows hospital and care-facility staff to monitor patients while they eat, so residents can enjoy their meals and feel comfortable eating with others. The platform could also help seniors aging-in-place, who can track their swallowing through the smartphone app and submit their data to their healthcare provider through the system.

However, it’s not clear whether GOKURI currently has an option for continuous remote monitoring for non-residential patients. If connected to a reliable emergency response system, GOKURI could also allow seniors living at home to enjoy meals with more confidence.