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Researchers develop smart earring to monitor skin temperature

The wearable has shown promise for monitoring signs of stress, eating, exercise and ovulation

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The Thermal Earring is a wireless wearable that continuously monitors a user’s earlobe temperature Source: Raymond Smith/University of Washington

University of Washington researchers have developed a smart wireless earring capable of continuously monitoring a user’s earlobe temperature.

In a study of six users, the Thermal Earring outperformed a smartwatch at sensing skin temperature during periods of rest.

The research, published in Proceedings of the ACM on Interactive, Mobile, Wearable and Ubiquitous Technologies, also showed promise for monitoring signs of stress, eating, exercise and ovulation.

The smart earring prototype is about the size and weight of a small paperclip and has a 28-day battery life. A magnetic clip attaches one temperature sensor to a wearer’s ear, while another sensor dangles about an inch below it for estimating room temperature.

The earring can be personalised with fashion designs made of resin or with a gemstone, without negatively affecting its accuracy.

“I wear a smartwatch to track my personal health, but I’ve found that a lot of people think smartwatches are unfashionable or bulky and uncomfortable,” said co-lead author Qiuyue (Shirley) Xue, a UW doctoral student in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering.

“I also like to wear earrings, so we started thinking about what unique things we can get from the earlobe. We found that sensing the skin temperature on the lobe, instead of a hand or wrist, was much more accurate. It also gave us the option to have part of the sensor dangle to separate ambient room temperature from skin temperature.”

Yujia (Nancy) Liu, co-lead author, who was a UW masters student in the electrical and computer engineering department when doing the research and is now at the University of California San Diego, said: “It’s a tricky balance.

“Typically, if you want power to last longer, you should have a bigger battery. But then you sacrifice size. Making it wireless also demands more energy.”

The team made the earring’s power consumption as efficient as possible, while also making space for a Bluetooth chip, a battery, two temperature sensors and an antenna.

Instead of pairing it with a device, which uses more power, the earring uses Bluetooth advertising mode — the transmissions a device broadcasts to show it can be paired. After reading and sending the temperature, it goes into deep sleep to save power.

Because continuous earlobe temperature has not been studied widely, the team also explored potential applications to guide future research. In five patients with fevers, the average earlobe temperature rose 10.62 degrees Fahrenheit (5.92 degrees Celsius) compared with the temperatures of 20 healthy patients, suggesting the earring’s potential for continuous fever monitoring.

Dr Mastafa Springston, co-author and clinical instructor at the department of emergency medicine in the UW School of Medicine, said: “In medicine we often monitor fevers to assess response to therapy to see, for instance, if an antibiotic is working on an infection.

“Longer term monitoring is a way to increase sensitivity of capturing fevers, since they can rise and fall throughout the day.”

While core body temperature generally stays relatively constant outside of fever, earlobe temperature varies more, presenting several novel uses for the Thermal Earring.

In small proof-of-concept tests, the earring detected temperature variations correlated with eating, exercising and experiencing stress.

When tested on six users at rest, the earring’s reading varied by 0.58 F (0.32 C) on average, placing it within the range of 0.28 C to 0.56 C necessary for ovulation and period tracking. A smartwatch varied by 0.72 C.

The temperature sensing earring is shown attached to a person’s ear. The portion touching the earlobe has a gemstone on it. Dangling a few centimeters below it is a pink flower made of resin.

The smart earring can be personalised with fashion designs made of resin without negatively affecting its accuracy. Source: Raymond Smith/University of Washington

“Current wearables like Apple Watch and Fitbit have temperature sensors, but they provide only an average temperature for the day, and their temperature readings from wrists and hands are too noisy to track ovulation,” Xue said.

“So we wanted to explore unique applications for the earring, especially applications that might be attractive to women and anyone who cares about fashion.”

While researchers found several promising potential applications for the earrings, their findings were preliminary, since the focus was on the range of potential uses. They need more data to train their models for each use case and more thorough testing before the device might be used by the public.

For future iterations of the device, Xue is working to integrate heart rate and activity monitoring. She is also interested in potentially powering the device from solar or kinetic energy from the earring swaying.

“Eventually, I want to develop a jewellery set for health monitoring,” she said.

“The earrings would sense activity and health metrics such as temperature and heart rate, while a necklace might serve as an electrocardiogram monitor for more effective heart health data.”

The device is not currently commercially available.

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Start-up launches London Underground campaign to break down period stigma

The two-week campaign seeks to challenge societal taboos surrounding menstrual health

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The Irish women’s health start-up Riley has launched an ad campaign on the London Underground to “take the fear out of periods”.

Riley, an eco-friendly period product subscription service, aims to take action against period poverty and democratise access to period products.

The company seeks to encourage the introduction of menstrual health policies and foster a workplace where discussions around periods are normalised.

Its two-week London Underground campaign, which coincides with the opening of its first office in London, is hoped to help destigmatise periods and normalise conversations around menstrual health.

“The idea behind this campaign comes from the fact that free period care in the office is often seen as an employee perk or a ‘nice to have’, when it should actually be an essential offering in every office,” Meaghan Droney, eCommerce manager at Riley, told Femtech World.

“Our aim with this campaign is to flip those current mindsets and get people to change their attitudes towards period care in the workplace.

“With 79 per cent of menstruators feeling unsupported in relation to their periods at work, this oversight is clearly fundamentally unfair and it’s time for change.

“We’re encouraging any and all businesses to get in touch with us so we can support them in introducing menstrual policies and free period care in their workplace to empower all employees, no matter their gender, to thrive and feel valued at work.”

Research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) shows that only 12 per cent of UK companies provide support for menstruation and menstrual health, despite 85 per cent of women experiencing stress or anxiety when managing their period at work.

Data suggests that half of the women who take absence because of their menstrual cycle feel unable to tell their manager, underscoring the deep-rooted stigma around periods.

Fiona Parfrey, co-founder of Riley, said: “Access to safe and high-quality sustainable period care products not only demonstrates a commitment to employee welfare but also fosters a culture of empathy, equality, and respect, ultimately contributing to a more engaged and empowered workforce.

“Menstrual policies and free period care are a fundamental necessity for every individual in the workplace. It’s about ensuring that employees have the resources they need to maintain their wellbeing and productivity without interruption.”

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Singapore-based fertility centre sets up grant for couples struggling to conceive

This grant aims to support eligible Singaporean couples facing financial and family planning challenges

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A Singapore-based fertility centre is to set up a grant to support couples struggling to conceive.

Virtus Fertility Centre Singapore (VFCS) announced that it would set up a grant to support aspiring parents on their IVF journey.

The initial grant is set for at $50,000 SGD and, depending on the take-up rate over the next 12 fiscal months, VFCS plans to increase the pool to benefit more couples in the subsequent years.

The grant will cover the main costs associated with IVF treatments and procedures, including embryo retrieval and transfer, laboratory services and embryo prep. It will also be applicable to fresh and frozen egg transfers.

As grant recipients, their samples will similarly be given a radio frequency identification (RFID) tag, a service VFCS provides for all its patients. It locks the patient’s identity with the respective sample. The RFID identifies gametes—eggs, sperms, or embryos—at every stage of the IVF treatment.

According to VFCS, the grant will also include access to counselling services and wellness resources.

“I’ve witnessed firsthand the emotional toll and occasional frustration that infertility can take on individuals and couples, especially for some who are still young and healthy,” said Dr Roland Chieng, medical director at VFCS.

“The common deterrent of going for fertility treatment is always associated with the cost, more so in a private care setting where their only source of funds is through Medisave.

“By alleviating their financial concerns, we hope ReadyBaby Fertility Grant empowers patients to approach their IVF journey, focusing on their clinical needs and working towards a healthy pregnancy and less on financials.

“With access to the necessary treatments and support, patients can embark on their path to parenthood with renewed confidence, knowing they have the clinical resources and guidance they need to navigate this journey,” he added.

Tim Kwan, VFCS’s managing director, said: “We believe every couple deserves the opportunity to experience the profound joy of parenthood.

“With the ReadyBaby Fertility Grant, we aim to support aspiring couples on their IVF journey and help them bring new life into the world.”

To be eligible for the grant, applicants must be married Singaporean couples diagnosed with medical infertility by a fertility specialist and first-time parents who have not tried IVF before.

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Canadian insurer launches partnership to support women’s health

Members of the Canadian insurer Medavie Blue Cross will have access to a dedicated women’s health platform

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Angela Johnson, co-founder and CEO of sanoLiving

The Canadian insurer Medavie Blue Cross (MBC) has partnered with the virtual health platform sanoLiving to support women on their menopause journey.

Currently, more than 10 million Canadian women are navigating menopause, often with little support and misinformation about treatments.

With sanoMidLife, sanoLiving’s online menopause platform, Medavie Blue Cross members will have access to a national women’s health platform tailored to provide care and services for women going through the menopause.

The service includes personalised assessments, access to clinicians, treatments, educational content, peer support and AI assistance.

“Many women lack support for their menopause transition due to the misunderstandings of what is ‘normal’ and misinformation about treatments,” said Angela Johnson, co-founder and CEO of sanoLiving.

“Women are seeking solutions that allow them to thrive during midlife. We are thrilled about our alliance with Medavie Blue Cross, and our shared commitment to providing access to care that empowers women.”

Anita Swamy, senior vice president operations at Medavie Blue Cross, added: “We’ve heard first-hand from our members about the need for more menopause-related services.

“Our partnership with sanoLiving creates an innovative way to increase access to care for our members as we continue to focus on the support women need to navigate their benefits and provide forward-thinking options to support their health.”

Studies report one in 10 women exit the workforce due to unmanaged symptoms. Early onset of menopause and symptoms before age 45 can elevate the risk of health issues like heart disease, diabetes, dementia and osteoporosis.

With this new service, Medavie Blue Cross and sanoLiving are aiming to open up the conversation around menopause, reduce stigma and work towards giving women the access to the care they need.

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