Coronavirus pandemic is far from over. The scientists and researchers continue to race to develop effective treatment and preventive methods to curb the disease that has so far claimed more than 250,000 lives. Meanwhile, a new wearable device developed by researchers at Northwestern University and the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab claims to detect coronavirus symptoms at early stage.

This has been revealed in a paper published in journal Nature Biomedical Engineering. The device detects the virus even before the infected person notices it.

The new device is a wireless sensor that looks like a Band-Aid and sticks to the throat, where it can sense the breathing and coughing problems, some of the common symptoms of COVID-19, a deadly respiratory illness caused by SARS-CoV-2 or novel coronavirus. The device developed in the Chicago-based university, one of the many American cities that were hard hit by the contagious infection was reportedly announced on Monday.

Using the same sensor technology used for monitoring speech and swallowing in recovering stroke patients, this wearable gadget sticks to suprasternal notch and has the ability to pick up early signs of coronavirus disease and measure the progress. In addition, the device remains microphone-free because it can cause privacy issues.

"We don't use a microphone," Professor John Rogers, director of Northwestern University's Center on Bio-Integrated Electronics told in a press release. "There are problems with microphones with ambient noise and tremendous invasions of privacy. We use a high-bandwidth, tri-axis accelerometer to measure the movement of the surface of the skin," he added.

In addition, the new coronavirus detection device also measures heart rate and temperature of the person wearing it.

It appears to be simple in use. All that users need to do is remove the device from the patch and charge it daily with a wireless charger. During this process, the data on the device is synced with a nearby iPad. This data is updated to HIPAA-compliant whereby AI Algorithm compares it with coronavirus-related incongruities.

"We like AI, but we're not wedded to it. We're wedded to things that work," says Rogers. "We use digital filtering algorithms that look for particular signatures in the data. We're looking for trends, not an absolute gold standard measurement. And we have a good understanding of the underlying physics," he explained.

Since research is in the early stages, the data collected by it is being cross-checked by "trained human." So far, the device has been tested on 25 test subjects who have been wearing it for two weeks and have created 1500 hours of history and one terabyte of data.

In the meantime, the lab at Northwestern's Chicago campus is producing dozens of patches every week before it is launched in the market after acquiring approval and licence.

A firefighter in Maryland
A US firefighter in Maryland takes the blood pressure of a suspected COVID-19 patient as he is transported to hospital. Photo: AFP / Alex Edelman

Rogers believes that the health care system is expected to improve abundantly when medical conditions will be monitored continually and not just occasionally.