The solution, which has been developed at speed, is called the Covid-19 Remote Early Warning System – or CREW. It works by remotely identifying healthcare workers and medics who develop a temperature, a key symptom of Covid19.
Currently one quarter of all diagnosed cases of the new Coronavirus in Ireland are members of the healthcare professions who work daily on the frontlines to assist communities.
Though symptoms of the virus can vary both in nature and degree, a rise in body temperature is, so far, the single most common variable. By identifying healthcare staff with a temperature, possibly as a result of Covid19, CREW can alert healthcare workers and employers to ensure they do not come to work.
Early indications from CREW field studies are hugely encouraging. The system is being developed by 8 West in partnership with the College of Medicine and Health at University College Cork (UCC), its ASSERT Centre and the renowned Tyndall Institute.
UCC’s ASSERT Centre enables clinicians to design, develop, deploy and trial innovative and disruptive healthcare solutions in a simulated healthcare environment. The Tyndall National Institute is a leading European research centre specialising in integrated ICT hardware and systems.
CREW combines new and existing technologies in an innovative way. It consists of a wearable digital thermometer sensor which is worn underarm to measure body temperature. This is combined with a sensor platform, such as a smart phone, smart watch or other wearable Internet of Things device, which runs the CREW app.
A cloud based server then runs the CREW system, monitoring incoming data from frontline workers wearing the device. It generates automatic alarms if temperature thresholds are breached.
Such remote monitoring is key as very often people develop a temperature when they are asleep, says 8 West founder and joint CEO, John Murphy.
A spike in temperature, particularly when combined with an increased heart rate, at a time when no other physical activity is taking place, can provide a key early warning sign for the onset of Covid-19.
8 West already has extensive experience designing, developing and producing life saving remote monitoring and early warning systems.
The company, which has been in operation since 1998, specialises in providing technology service solutions to the healthcare and retail sectors. Its primary activity is the provision of enterprise software, particularly in the healthcare sector. Its clients include major US insurance companies Anthem and DentaQuest.
However 8 West is a product innovator too. It develops its own proprietary solutions and is the creator of SafeTrx, Europe’s leading tracking and alerting software platform for the marine sector. It was designed to keep leisure craft sailors safe, sounding the alarm after an incident at sea. The SafeTRX system was used in 625 rescue missions last year.
“We were able to leverage SafeTRX to get CREW off the ground quickly, creating the entire system, end to end, in under three weeks. It was a Herculean effort by our employees,” says Murphy, who had been casting around since the crisis began for ways to help.
“Every morning I woke expecting to find news of just such a system in my email in-box. When that didn’t happen, we decided to do it ourselves.”
Having developed CREW, trials quickly began taking place among frontline staff at Cork University Hospital, in early April.
Volunteers there wear underarm thermometers connected to smart phones, with temperature readings sent to the monitoring platform on an hourly basis. Where a staff member’s temperature shows signs of being elevated, they are alerted to take appropriate action and self-isolate.
CREW is available on iOS and Android smart phones, Apple WatchOS and Google smartwatch operating system WearOS with the mSafety platform from Sony to follow soon.
The company received technical and hardware support from a range of companies including Sony Network Communications Europe, Cambridge Wireless, Vodafone Ireland, Huawei, Davra, BlueBridge Technologies and PMD Solutions.
“The response to every single call I made was very collegiate, everybody was ready to give support because, with Covid-19, we all share a single purpose now,” he says.
The goal is to make CREW available to as many frontline staff as possible in Ireland and around the world. It has the potential to help not only individual medics but the wider hospital population and the general public too. It has the power to provide crucial assistance to nursing homes, for example, a sector that has been hit particularly hard by the virus.
“When Covid-19 struck I was feeling pretty helpless,” admits Murphy. “Together with my co-CEO Eamon Franklin we asked ourselves what can we do to protect the wellbeing of healthcare workers who, by the nature of their job, are being exposed to Covid19 on an ongoing basis?”
CREW was the answer. “The technical community has the responsibility and the skills to rapidly evolve and deploy a solution to support healthcare workers, and that is what we are doing.”
CREW’s market expansion strategy is being supported by the Enterprise Ireland team in Dubai who are working closely with 8 West to identify optimal routes to market with key local partners.
According to Mike Hogan, Regional Manager Enterprise Ireland, “Markets across the Middle East are always keen to acquire cutting edge technologies and we think this is even more prevalent in the current situation fighting the spread of Covid-19. I’m sure 8 West’s CREW solution will play a big part in fighting the spread of the disease and protecting the frontline health workers who are doing an incredible job keeping our communities safe”.