The scarcity in medical supplies and equipment has sent many companies outside of the medical field to jump in and help. Life-saving ventilators, in particular, are in extremely short supply that doctors and hospitals are often faced with the ethical dilemma of who gets one and who doesn’t. Car companies like General Motors and Tesla have pitched in to develop alternative ventilators to augment that supply and even the Google-owned Fitbit has designed and produced its own emergency ventilator it named “Flow”.
Regardless of the design or manufacturer, all ventilators function in the same way. They pump oxygen into the lungs and body when the person isn’t able to do so on his own. It also monitors the person’s response and helps get rid of the carbon dioxide the lung exhales.
When it comes to monitoring the body using different sensors, Fitbit is already a master. The challenge was in designing a respirator to go with those sensors. Even more challenging was how the team had to work remotely due to their own respective shelter-in-place orders.
The result of that collaboration is Flow, a ventilator system that uses the same type of resuscitator bags that paramedics use in an emergency. This bag is placed inside a machine with a clear viewing window so that doctors can safely and conveniently monitor the operation even from a distance. The portable design of the Fitbit Flow makes it possible to be placed on a tabletop or on top of a movable stand for better mobility.
The Flow, however, doesn’t seem to be designed as a ventilator stand-in. Instead, Fitbit is positioning it as a life support supplement until a commercial ventilator becomes available. The machine has already been approved by the FDA for emergency use during this COVID-19 crisis.