Rudi Hechfellner
Director of Sensing and Platforms
Published: August 5, 2020

We are well into the COVID-19 epidemic and various countries have successfully managed the spread of the virus. Nevertheless, the threat of being exposed still remains, even though many of us have "virus fatigue" and are ready to go back to our normal lives. It is becoming more important to be aware of exposure threats and help people overcome the uncertainties of being exposed. In some areas of the world, there are testing facilities to confirm if a person is positive or negative for the infection in a couple of days. But what if you think you may have been exposed and want to track your body's vital signs as a way to measure if you have the virus?

It is understood that the earlier an infection is detected, the faster the recovery time and chance of survival. In many cases, it is unrealistic or impractical to get tested on a frequent basis, so another option is to look for changes in our vital signs.

Studies have shown that symptoms of infected individuals vary, but we now understand which portion of our bodies is affected the most. COVID-19 infects the alveoli, which are air sacs in your lungs that exchange carbon dioxide to and from the bloodstream. Without functioning alveoli, each breath we take will not remove as much carbon dioxide from the blood or provide as much oxygen to the blood as it is used to. To make up for the loss of efficiency per breath, the body is forced to breathe faster to ensure the same oxygen supply. That means we have to adjust our breathing rate to compensate for the effects of the infection to provide sufficient oxygen to our body's cells.

In addition, doctors have reported cases of COVID-19 patients who did not experience shortness of breath or coughing until their oxygen levels had plummeted to such a degree that the patients risked acute respiratory distress (ARDS) and organ failure. Therefore, breathing rate and/or blood oxygen saturation may be leading indicators of exposure and can help a patient to recover from the infection.

There are various solutions in the market that help measure vital signs, including Renesas’ expanded biosensor portfolio. It features a new (and free of charge) algorithm that enables the all-in-one OB1203 biosensor to measure heart rate, blood oxygen and breathing rate. With the combination of a complete OB1203 design-in tool kit and algorithm, customers can put new and enhanced pulse oximeters on the market within weeks. Renesas provides everything designers need, including reference designs, software source codes, and even an Android App to display the data on a smartphone.

Renesas offers multiple variants of its OB1203 pulse oximeter design, including OLED display features, Bluetooth® Low Energy wireless links, and even a USB version to connect to a laptop.

Visit the OB1203 product page to learn more.

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