Special bracelet provides key to COVID-19 monitoring and contact tracing

Mitacs interns from McGill University and the University of Alberta work on wearable vital signs detection and contact tracing device that allows real-time monitoring.

As of July 27, 2020, the number of COVID-19 confirmed cases worldwide reached 16.3 million people, with 114,000 cases in Canada. About two to eight percent of COVID-19 cases experience severe symptoms that lead to respiratory distress, organ failure, and even death. Currently, regular medical checkups consist of one-on-one phone calls to monitor the patient’s vital signs remotely.

However, the tremendous number of cases makes individual monitoring a very inefficient process, especially when fatal symptoms occur rapidly. That’s why Mitacs Accelerate interns from McGill University and the University of Alberta (UAlberta) have teamed up with iMD Research to create a wearable contact tracing device that will allow healthcare professionals to monitor multiple patients in real time.

By using artificial intelligence systems, the device will compile data on the patient’s heart rate, respiration rate, blood pressure, and oxygen levels to track COVID-19 patients remotely.

A virtual solution

With the use of Bluetooth technology, the team is creating a bracelet tracker that enables healthcare professionals to check and receive updates on the severity of multiple vital signs simultaneously.

“We’re working on collecting data via Bluetooth from the wearable device to the mobile app,” says Mitacs intern Naimur Rahman, a student in UAlberta’s Department of Computing Science.

The artificial intelligence (AI) system converts the data to vital signs. While the data is safely stored in the cloud for the patient and healthcare professionals to monitor, urgent warnings are issued immediately on the mobile app.

“In this way, doctors can diagnose faster, reducing delays in distinguishing between urgent and non-urgent patients,” says Rahman.

Based on previous research designed for sleep monitoring, the device can also evaluate a patient’s cardiorespiratory system with 96 percent accuracy while enabling them to perform their regular daily activities. In addition, the AI system can detect GPS location to determine if the infected person has entered crowds.

As a highly efficient method of simultaneous contact tracing and symptom monitoring, the bracelet powered by AI design holds high hopes for many people, including researchers, scientists, and academics, as they work to decrease the spread and fatality rate of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Preparing tomorrow’s talents while working on a global health crisis

As the new pandemic lifestyle takes a bigger toll on many individuals’ lives, the goal of finding a COVID-19 solution is met with an unprecedented drive from those striving toward a promising future.

“I feel lucky enough to work on a project that is so beneficial to our society, I have hope things will be good in the future,” says Shibam Debbarma, a Mitacs intern and student in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at McGill.

With the help of Mitacs, iMD Research and interns from McGill and UAlberta were able to collaborate during one of the biggest pandemics of the millennium. By bridging academia and industry, Mitacs continuously strives to solve real-world problems with innovative solutions.

“iMD Research views the monitoring of vital signs as a core component of its business model and central to its growth. The ability of Canada to reopen its economy will depend on the ability to measure and monitor the fluctuation in COVID-19 cases. The Mitacs Accelerate project could be of immense help to that effort,” says Irene Cheng, Adjunct Professor in UAlberta’s Department of Computing Science and one of the academic supervisors of the project.

Mitacs’s programs receive funding from multiple partners across Canada. We thank the Government of Canada, the Government of Alberta, the Government of British Columbia, Research Manitoba, the Government of New Brunswick, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Government of Nova Scotia, the Government of Ontario, Innovation PEI, the Government of Quebec, Fonds de recherche du Québec – Nature et technologies, the Government of Saskatchewan, and the Government of Yukon for supporting us in fostering innovation and economic growth throughout the country.

Do you have a business challenge that could benefit from a research solution? If so, contact Mitacs today to discuss partnership opportunities:


Mitacs empowers Canadian innovation through effective partnerships that deliver solutions to our most pressing problems. By driving economic growth and productivity, we create meaningful change to improve quality of life for all Canadians.