The COVID-19 pandemic has put the spotlight on doctors and scientists who are working diligently to treat patients, research and develop vaccine and treatment candidates, and devise health and safety protocols. We also can't forget the engineers who are contributing their expertise to battle the novel coronavirus. (Vendors like Maxim Integrated have seen the need from customers ramping up medical equipment for diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19 patients.) Over at the Arduino Project Hub, I came across several interesting designs that I'm sharing here to highlight the creativity, ingenuity, and technical talents that the DIY community is demonstrating in its efforts. With the help of reference designs featuring biosensors, these makers have created prototypes that enable remote patient monitoring, equipment sanitation, and contact tracing—all key facets in addressing the virus.
Safety protocols for COVID-19 include frequent hand-washing, wearing face masks, and using hand sanitizer. Enterprising Arduino users have created a number of prototypes to help as well.
Remote Patient Monitoring
Team IoT-Bangladesh certainly had safety in mind when its members developed a COVID-19 patient monitoring device based on LoRa. This sensor-based system is intended to help medical professionals remotely monitor the health condition of infected patients. Various sensors measure biological behaviors of a patient (heart rate, temperature, SpO2, ECG, movement, blood pressure), with the meaningful data sent to the cloud. The system's intelligence comes into play as it is able to detect and flag critical conditions, instantly pushing such emergency notifications to doctors, nurses, and other hospital personnel. An accompanying mobile app provides visualization of the real-time sensor data via charts and gauges. Doctors and nurses using such a system can keep close tabs on their patients, entering their rooms only when necessary.
Core components of the remote monitoring system include:
- The Things Indoor Gateway, a LoRaWAN-compliant, 8-channel gateway connecting over WiFi.
- The MAXREFDES117# reference design for heart-rate and pulse-oximetry monitoring applications. The board includes the MAX30102 heart-rate and SpO2 sensor, the MAX1921 low-power step-down converter, and the MAX14595 accurate level translator.
Notes the team in their project description, "There is a huge opportunity to modify this system as a wearable device that allows us to monitor the older people or babies remotely from any place."
Martin Cornu has created a connected oximeter with SMS alert for COVID-19. The device sends an alert to loved ones when the user's oxygen-saturation level has fallen below a critical threshold (a potential symptom of COVID-19 infection). The user simply places a finger on the device's sensor for a few seconds and, if the reading is below a set threshold, the system sends an SMS to the indicated phone number(s). Notes Cornu in his project description, "In this crisis situation, the people who are most at risk are also those who are least comfortable with new technologies. That's why one of the challenges will be to create the simplest possible object: an on/off button and an OLED screen to inform the user. Nothing else."
The connected oximeter is designed with:
- Arduino MKR FOX 1200.
- MAX30102 high-sensitivity pulse oximeter and heart-rate sensor for wearable health. The biosensor module includes internal LEDs, photodetectors, optical elements, and low-noise electronics with ambient light rejection.
Also using the MAX30102 biosensor module, Arduino "having11" Guy has developed an open-source pulse oximeter for COVID-19 that can be built for about $25. In this project description, Arduino "having11" Guy notes that some people who develop pneumonia (which the new coronavirus can trigger) or even slight shortness of breath may not recognize when they should go to the hospital. "This is why I created this open-source pulse oximeter, which can assist in getting people the help they need and get accurate information about their current condition," he writes. Other components of his oximeter include an Arduino Nano R3 and a DFRobot I2C OLED display.
Face Mask and Hand Sanitation
Many people in the world lack access to healthcare and even proper sanitation. This unfortunate situation prompted Guntas Singh to create a portable COVID-19 clinic that provides face-mask and automatic hand sanitization and vital-sign monitoring. Housed in a cardboard casing, the portable clinic:
- Helps evaluate early symptoms of COVID-19 by monitoring vital signs such as SpO2, temperature, and ECG, providing insights that can direct a clinician to send the patient for a COVID-19 test or to the hospital for treatment of a potential respiratory or cardiological ailment.
- Sanitizes face masks using UV LEDs.
- Automatically dispenses hand sanitizer using an IR sensor and a peristaltic pump.
Singh's idea is for his system to be used in populated, yet high-risk communities. It is designed to be lightweight, power efficient, and customizable. He developed his prototype using parts including:
- Arduino Mega 2560
- MAXREFDES100#, also known as the Health Sensor Platform, which supports measurement of motion, precision skin temperature, and various biopotential signals (ECG, EMG, EEG)
- Digilent IR Proximity Sensor
- DFRobot I2C 16x2 Arduino LCD Display Module
In a pandemic, contact tracing is a helpful technique for reducing virus transmission. The meticulous process involves identifying and isolating people who have potentially been exposed to an infected person. To support this painstaking effort, Mithun Das has developed the TraceX contact tracing and social distancing ecosystem. Consisting of a wearable band and an iOS app, the system enables:
- Social distancing with an on-screen notification, along with a beep on the app and a vibration on the band
- Contract tracing by exchanging secret data
- Secure and anonymous recording of new cases, with the option to share coordinate and local traces to help frontline healthcare providers and governments take proactive steps to disinfect places/objects and quarantine people
When someone tests positive for COVID-19 and reports it on TraceX, other TraceX users who were in close proximity with the infected person in the last 14 days would be alerted (and the diagnosed person would remain anonymous). Das designed the system using components including:
- Arduino Nano 33 BLE Sense
- MAX30102 pulse-oximeter and heart-rate sensor for wearables
- ElectroPeak OLED Display Module
Schematics, code, the bill of materials (BOM), and instructions for each of these projects are available on the Arduino Project Hub, in case you'd like to try your hand in prototyping a solution to help in the global battle against COVID-19.