Researchers from the National Science Foundation's Nanosystems Engineering Research Center for Advanced Self-Powered Systems of Integrated Sensors and Technologies (ASSIST) at North Carolina State University have developed a new wearable system that can predict and prevent possible asthma attacks.

"Our goal was to design a wearable system that could track the wellness of the subjects and in particular provide the infrastructure to predict asthma attacks, so that the users could take steps to prevent them by changing their activities or environment," said Alper Bozkurt, the principal investigator of a paper describing the work and an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at NC State, in a statement.

The new system, dubbed as Health and Environmental Tracker (HET) is consisting of different sensory devices that can monitor the heart rate, lung function and environment of the user. It has two components: a chest patch and a wristband. It also comes with a non-wearable component, the spirometer.

The chest patch is capable of monitoring the user's movement, respiratory rate, heart rate, oxygen levels in the blood, skin impedance and wheezing in the lungs. Meanwhile, the wristband mainly focuses on the environmental factors, tracking the ambient humidity, temperature and volatile organic compounds and ozone in the air. The wristband can also monitor motion, heart rate and the amount of oxygen in the blood.

On the other hand, the non-wearable spirometer that can measure the lung function of the user.

All the three components transmit the gathered data wirelessly to a computer. The data then will be collected and recorded by custom software.

At present, the researchers only tested the new sensory devices to a limited number of human subjects to for proof of concept demonstration. Their findings, published in the IEEE Journal of Biomedical and Health Informatics, have confirmed the all the sensors are working and the system accurately records the data.

The researchers plan to test the HET in a controlled environment with subjects suffering from asthma and a control group this summer. This will be done in order to identify which environmental and physiological variables are effective at predicting asthma attacks.