Thanks to wearable technology, a wristband now acts as an early-alert system for epileptic seizures, which could lead to injury and even death minutes from the time of occurrence.

The Embrace wristband — coming from a company co-founded by an MIT professor and wearables pioneer Rosalind Picard — is a medical-grade product that can monitor stress signals in order to detect seizures and alert wearers and patients’ caregivers.

Already used worldwide by scientists is its counterpart E4, which measures signals of epilepsy as well as other neurological disorders.

The wristband — whose beta version was shipped to its backers on Friday, after an Indiegogo campaign in 2015 — combines skin conductance, technically known as electrodermal activity (EDA), and wrist motion data for improved accuracy of detecting seizures. It also does not only detect the pulse and temperature of the wearer, but also track stress levels.

“Stress signals reach every organ of your body, so these stress signals are potentially influencing everything,” explains Picard, who adds that sometimes stress comes with a just-in-time notice.

Data from the World Health Organization show that epilepsy strikes in about 50 million globally, with one out of 1,000 dying every year from sudden unexpected death. It is even riskier for patients who have undergone a grand mal seizure the previous year.

Embrace, with its watch-like appearance of a solid black or silver face, comes with an app tasked to alert both patients and their caregivers as soon as a grand mal seizure is detected to happen.

EDA boosts that are unaccompanied by motion changes could mean stress, while a sharp increase in both markers could herald a likely life-endangering seizure.

Once it senses a seizure coming, the wristband vibrates. The lack of a response from the wearer will prompt the app to send a quick alert to an assigned person. The speed of response could be the difference between dying and surviving.

“In some cases, simply saying the person’s name or turning them over (gentle stimulation) might save their life,” Picard says.

Embrace wristband could also be used in the classroom to monitor a child’s stress levels or related health issues such as autism.

The core technology of the wristband dates back 2007, when Picard’s team created a similar device called iCalm. The MIT scientist has since then formed a number of startups to commercialize the evolving wearable.

Learn more about Embrace wristband for monitoring seizures and other functions such as physiological stress, sleep, arousal, and physical fitness.

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