$41 Smartwatch Can Monitor and Treat Drug Overdoses in Real-Time Before They Turn Fatal
17-year-old Scientist Invents a $41 Smartwatch That Can Monitor and Treat Overdoses in Real-Time
Drug overdose is a perenially neglected medical problem for public healthcare providers around the world. With increased dependence on drugs for physical and mental well-being, we are witnessing a sporadic spurt in the number of drug overdose cases, resulting in an increase in the cost of healthcare and mortality. Though the vaccinations against COVID-19 have picked pace in recent weeks, yet, we are subjected to a constant stream of news reporting various types of drug overdoses proving fatal for patients.
But, drug overdoses could be a thing of the past.
Thanks to the pioneering work of Steve Dou, a California high school senior. Steve has created a smartwatch to detect drug overdoses before they’re fatal. The device uses a complex system of biosensors built by Steve that can monitor a user’s body around the clock, detecting changes indicative of an overdose in measurements such as oxygen level, heart rate, and muscle movement—all without the need of a doctor.
According to independent research, there has been an increase in prescription opioid overdose deaths, and these drug overdose cases are not just an urban problem: rural areas too have seen an important increase in overdose deaths.
So, how can a $41 Smartwatch track and warn against drug overdose?
Steve came up with the idea for his smartwatch at the age of 13 when he witnessed his brother suffer an opioid overdose that almost took his life. Determined to make a change, Steve cold-emailed numerous research groups, and when he was in ninth grade, a researcher at the University of Central Florida invited him to join a bioengineering lab. Steve has been working on the project for over three years now.
“Life-saving medications like naloxone are designed to rapidly reverse overdoses, but they won’t matter if nobody is nearby to administer them during an overdose,” says Milad Hamidi, Steve’s research supervisor at the University of Central Florida.
Milad added, “Steve’s invention, the Rescue Response Smartwatch, helps solve that problem by bringing an alarm system to the wrist of the user.”
If the user’s measurements were to pass a threshold, the smartwatch would automatically send an alert to 911. To establish the threshold measurements, Steve collaborated with the Orlando Regional Medical Center to obtain de-identified clinical datasets from overdose victims. The smartwatch’s intelligent machine learning algorithm was trained on this data. Unlike previous technologies, Steve’s smartwatch incorporates multiple biosensors and an onboard naloxone cartridge. The cartridge can be activated and used during an emergency to manage an overdose.
Steve has built dozens of copies of his Rescue Response Smartwatch, and he partnered with the North American Syringe Exchange Network to freely pass them out to homeless populations. This has been possible because each smartwatch only costs $41 to make, and Steve believes he could decrease it to as low as $22.
Aside from his smartwatch, Steve also invented Oncosentronic, a nanoparticle-based biosensor that can detect breast cancer cells in a patient’s blood samples to help with diagnoses. He hopes to create more medical technologies in the future, and currently, he is starting his very own biotechnology company, Medical Biosentronics, as its CTO. Steve’s work in biosensors has made him a Global Finalist in the Google Science Fair and a recipient of a $20,000 scholarship from the Coca-Cola Scholars Program.