As it seems like the opioid crisis here in the US keeps getting more severe, a new accessory may help curb the number of deaths associated with overdoses. Developed by students at Carnegie Mellon University and dubbed the HopeBand, this device is worn on the wrist and keeps watch for potential opioid overdoses by watching for decreases in blood oxygen levels.
Once the HopeBand’s pulse oximetry sensors have detected low blood oxygen levels, it will continuing monitoring them for 10 seconds. If things don’t get better, it’ll sound an alarm, begin flashing lights, and send out a text message that contains that user’s location, allowing for a quick response that can potentially save the wearer’s life.
“Imagine having a friend who is always watching for signs of overdose; someone who understands your usage pattern and knows when to contact [someone] for help and make sure you get help,” said Carnegie Mellon software engineering student Rashmi Kalkunte in an IEEE Spectrum profile about the device. “That’s what the HopeBand is designed to do.”
The students who developed the HopeBand have already won third place in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Opioid Challenge back in September, but there hasn’t been any real-world testing of the HopeBand just yet. Still, lab testing has produced encouraging results, which certainly isn’t a bad sign.
Though the developers eventually plan to produce a commercial version of the HopeBand that costs somewhere between $16 and $20, it will be first be made available for free through needle exchange programs. Hopefully the HopeBand succeeds with its goal of consistently detecting opioid overdoses, because with more than 100 overdose-related deaths here in the US every day, it’s definitely a problem that needs addressing.