New research by University of South Australia (UniSA) engineers Professor Javaan Chahl, Dr Ali Al-Naji, and their team of graduate students has helped develop new software that helps quantify oxygen saturation, a main symptom of COVID-19, remotely from a camera.
The new AI health monitoring software, developed recently by the researchers and licensed to North American drone company Draganfly Inc, already detects temperature, breathing rate, and heart rate from fixed cameras and drones.
The technology developed as part of the project has already found extensive use in the United States to track for COVID-19 symptoms and guarantee compliance to social distancing in different settings.
The non-contact sensing technology requires only 15 seconds to quantify breathing rate, heart rate, and currently blood oxygen levels from a webcam video of a person’s face. It also measures core temperature by making use of a thermal camera.
Also called SpO2, blood oxygen saturation is a measure of how well the circulatory system transports oxygenated blood and the lungs absorb oxygen.
An individual’s SpO2 level is usually measured using connected sensors that project light through a finger or earlobe and, until now, there has been no real means to make a non-contact assessment. In this pandemic, a low SpO2 level has risen to prominence as an important symptom of individuals with COVID-19.
Javaan Chahl, Professor, University of South Australia
“The blood oxygen gauge our team has developed for Draganfly’s Vital Intelligence project shows the enormous potential of streaming video for remote detection of many health conditions, not just COVID-19,” added Chahl.
According to Cameron Chell, CEO of Draganfly Inc, the technology designed by the UniSA researchers is special.
There is nothing else like it out there in the commercial marketplace that has the science behind it. It is third party reviewed, clinically researched, university built and designed technology. It is a gamechanger in telehealth and overall health security in our society.
Cameron Chell, CEO, Draganfly Inc
Earlier, Dr Al-Naji and Professor Chahl, DST Group Joint Chair of Sensor Systems at UniSA, demonstrated the value of tracking vital health signs from fixed cameras through contactless monitoring to decrease the threat of infection in neonatal wards, substituting adhesive electrodes.
Their work to design specialized sensor and computer vision systems to remotely track heart rate, respiratory rate, and temperature was initially planned for war zones and natural disasters to detect signs of life.
Moreover, the technology has been successful in trials to undertake fundamental health checks of exotic wildlife by making use of a digital camera, thereby saving the animals the stress of an anesthetic.