New Health Trackers Aim to Prevent Emergencies

A man grips his chest in pain
(Image credit: Alice Day/

LAS VEGAS — New health trackers aim to prevent health crises before they happen, and warn people as soon as they do.

From sensors that aim to halt asthma in its tracks, to home monitors that warn the family when grandma is in trouble, several new trackers on display at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show are going far beyond older medical alert systems.

The new devices may provide peace of mind for people who want to check on loved ones less intrusively.

(Check out a sister site of Live Science's called Dignifyed, which has in-depth reviews of medical alert systems and expert advice related to health and wellness for older people.) 

Derailing asthma

Long before someone has an asthma attack, there are warning signs that their respiratory function is going downhill. But tweaking the type of medication they are taking, or the dose, can be very effective at preventing a frightening attack.

"The inhaler is actually the last line of defense before going to the emergency room," said Salman Bakht, the chief technology officer at Health Care Originals, which makes a new asthma monitor called the Adamm.

But children — and even adults — often don't even realize they are having trouble breathing, especially if they've gotten used to their lungs functioning at a lower level than normal, Bakht, who has asthma, told Live Science.

Adamm is a wearable, three-sensor monitor that will hit the market later this year. It tracks a person's respiration rate and how often they cough. The device detects early signs that a person's breathing is compromised. If that's the case, the device can notify the person having problems and allow that person to email health care providers, so that chances can be made to their daily medicines or lifestyle.

Is Grandma OK?

Forget the cliché of dying alone and unnoticed till neighbors notice a funny smell. Now loved ones can check up on grandma if she didn't have her usual second cup of coffee in the morning. Several new devices wirelessly track people's daily habits, and to try to either avert catastrophe or alert caregivers if it happens.

For instance, the Evermind device measures when appliances are turned on and off, then sends alerts if the routine has changed. Everything from hair curlers to oxygen concentrators can be tracked with the device, so family members can have peace of mind without checking in. Of course, the devices beg the question: Would it kill you to just call your mother?

Another device, OnKöl, integrates data from several sensors, including a heart-rate monitor, sensors that track when someone got out of bed or made a phone call. The device then sends text alerts to loved ones. The is useful because many people are OK with family members knowing they aren't feeling 100 percent, but don't feel comfortable deploying a medical alert pendant or calling 911, until it's too late, said Marc Cayle, the chief operating officer and founder of the company.

The idea behind the new device is to allow the elderly and those with special needs to live independently as long as possible, Cayle told Live Science.

Allergic response

Another device, the Veta, made by Aterica, is essentially a smart case for an EpiPen, a name brand injection device that delivers the medication epinephrine to treat the life-threatening allergic response called anaphylaxis. The Veta is also full of sensors, and can reassure parents that their kids have the life-saving device on them and track the expiration date and temperature. It also alerts parents if it is deployed and can allow them to find it rapidly.

The device also provides verbal instructions if the user has released a stand-by button, so that an onlooker can help administer it in case the owner of the pen is incapacitated.

Editor's Note: This article was updated to correct how EpiPens work; they are not injected into the heart. The article also added additional detail on the Veta's features.

Follow Tia Ghose on Twitter and Google+. Follow LiveScience @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Originally published on Live Science.

Tia Ghose
Managing Editor

Tia is the managing editor and was previously a senior writer for Live Science. Her work has appeared in Scientific American, and other outlets. She holds a master's degree in bioengineering from the University of Washington, a graduate certificate in science writing from UC Santa Cruz and a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. Tia was part of a team at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that published the Empty Cradles series on preterm births, which won multiple awards, including the 2012 Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism.