AT&T Demonstrates Wireless Asthma Sensor

AT&T has unveiled a prototype of a wireless asthma sensor that sends data about air quality wirelessly to smartphones and tablets.

AT&T has demonstrated a wireless sensor called Asthma Triggers to detect the levels of harmful chemicals in the air and feed the data over an AT&T network to smartphones, computers and tablets.

By using the sensor, asthmatics can gain a better understanding of their surroundings before waiting for symptoms to occur, AT&T suggested in a company video.

Still under development, the technology alerts asthmatics when high levels of chemical triggers are in the air. Powered by a battery-operated microcomputer, the sensor transmits readings using Zigbee technology from an Actuarius gateway cloud platform to a telehealth network and then to AT&T Healthcare Community Online, a collaborative care health information exchange (HIE). Users then receive the data on their smartphone, PC, or tablet, Bob Miller, an AT&T Labs researcher, told Medgadget.

AT&T is developing the technology under its ForHealth business, which it launched in 2010 to accelerate wireless, cloud and networking services in health care. It demonstrated the prototype at the mHealth Summit in National Harbor, Md., from Dec. 5-7.

More than 25 million Americans suffer from asthma, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. In addition, 27,000 adults miss work each day due to asthma, the organization reported.

"The increasing prevalence of asthma due to plastics, cleaning chemicals and other airborne volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the home and elsewhere are a likely cause," Miller said in a statement.

VOCs are a class of chemicals that trigger symptoms in asthmatics.

Asthma Triggers will become part of a telehealth ecosystem, AT&T reported, according to

The technology is "an example of what the future of health care will enable for patients as sensors and computer-assisted analytics become more commonplace," Miller told Medgadget.

"There have to be software, connectivity and a network to get the sensor data into a form that can be interpreted by physicians, caregivers and patients," he added.

Many medical devices can be equipped with sensors to transmit data wirelessly to a doctor using smartphones and tablets. These devices include heart monitors, glucometers, pulse-oximeters and blood pressure meters, Miller noted.

"The sensor itself is part of an end-to-end measurement, wireless transmission, data storage and analysis system to get such a concept ready for meaningful use," Miller said in his Medgadget interview.

Wireless-monitoring equipment could enable doctors to prepare for optimal use of electronic health records to qualify for federal incentives, he suggested.

The AT&T sensor is one development in a growing number of mobile tools for managing asthma. On June 4, mobile technology company iSonea launched an app that allows patients to track their lung functioning and breathing. The app sends text messages to the users when their asthma is "not well controlled" or "poorly controlled." The app is available for Apple iOS and Google Android devices.

In addition, on Nov. 6 Meditab unveiled an upgraded AllergyEHR application to allow doctors to manage their workflow as they treat patients with allergies and asthma. The software lets them chart patient histories, e-prescribe medication and access analytics on patient data.