Engineering Minute

Engineering Minute – Wristband Detects Opioid Overdose

A group of software engineering students at Carnegie Mellon University are working on a wearable device that detects opioid overdose. The device development was part of their capstone project and involved building a wristband prototype that detects if the user overdoeses. The wristband needed to be low-cost, and accurate, as well as be able to send an alert to rescuers, reducing the time needed to administer a life-saving dose of naloxone. 


"The project was intimidating, not only because it was massive, but also because this wasn't a project where you could simply deliver the code," explained Puneetha Ramachandra, one member of the group that calls itself Team Hashtag. "There was a burden of real societal responsibility to the project. Lives were on the line. This had to be done properly."


team who developed the opioid detecting wristband
A team of software engineering students has developed a wearable device that could help address unprecedented rates of opioid overdose deaths. photo: Carnegie Mellon University

"Even if you asked a group of doctors what defines the overdose, they would struggle to give you a concrete answer," said team member Rashmi Kalkunte Ramesh. "They have to physically assess the person for a variety of signals. It was on us to cull those signals and select a method of reliable, accurate assessment. We eventually honed in on a wrist-mounted pulse oximetry device as the best approach."


From the Carnegie Mellon University article: "Using pulse oximetry, the device they developed monitors the amount of oxygen in the user's blood by measuring light reflected back from the skin to a sensor. When paired to a mobile phone via Bluetooth, the sensor takes numerous readings on an ongoing basis to establish a baseline reading. If the user's blood oxygen level drops for more 30 seconds, the device switches an LED on the display from green to red. The device also cues the paired mobile phone — via an app the team also developed — to send out a message with the user's GPS coordinates to his or her emergency contacts."


Read more about the wristband that detects opioid overdose at Carnegie Mellon University.