Remote temperature device for rest homes a world first

A matchbox-sized body sensor worn under the arm to monitor whether someone has a fever and then sends that data over long distances has won funding to conduct clinical trials.

Nightingale temperature measuring device

The temperature-reading biosensor called ‘Nightingale’ is designed to protect those most at risk from Covid-19 and avoid cluster outbreaks in places like rest homes. Early detection of fever is a key symptom of the virus.

It also drastically reduces the need for physical contact between frontline medical staff and rest home residents for example, says project lead scientist Associate Professor Nick Gant from the University of Auckland.

“It’s about saving resources, safety, and getting really high visibility on the disease by knowing where the cases are and what’s happening as quickly as possible."

Funding of $264,124 for the automated fever detection device has been announced by Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods from MBIE’s COVID-19 Innovation Acceleration Fund.

Invented by a group of Auckland tech entrepreneurs under lockdown who realised they had the perfect mix of technological expertise, device designer Neal Radford says because Nightingale uses very little power via Low Power Wide Area Network technology, the signal can carry over many kilometres to receiver stations with a device battery life of several months.

“The solution can rapidly signal new outbreaks of Covid-19 in near real-time,” he says. “While other temperature measuring devices do exist, they don’t provide the kind of continuous mass monitoring at a distance that this one does so it’s really a world-first.”

Associate Professor Nick Gant

While the armpit is not the ideal site to measure body temperature, Nightingale is a smart device that uses data from a motion sensor to screen out erroneous readings, only sending small amounts of accurate data to a web-based interface for remote monitoring by nursing or health care staff.

It’s an obvious solution for temperature monitoring in retirement living facilities but could also be used to remotely monitor self-isolated individuals at home or in quarantine and small rural communities where concerns about the spread and impact of Covid-19 are particularly acute.

“Because of the relatively higher prevalence of diseases that make Māori and Pacific communities particularly vulnerable to the virus, rural Māori communities in particular would be better able to protect themselves with this type of monitoring,” Associate Professor Gant says.

With intellectual property secured, and a prototype already built, Nightingale could be rapidly deployed and the inventors have entered into a research partnership with Oceania Healthcare’s aged care facilities to test it.

While carefully designed safety protocols would need to be in place, it could happen within weeks, Associate Professor Gant says.

The tech and science entrepreneurs formed Nightingale to operate research in partnership with the University of Auckland’s Department of Exercise Science and Medical Technologies Centre of Research Excellence.

The company also got some useful testing help from local Americas Cup veteran and yacht designer Tom Schnackenberg.

At 75 years old, he is representative of one of the key demographics where Nightingale could be most useful. He says the device works well and is surprisingly comfortable to wear.

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