James Dieffenderfer, Mike Brown, and Leigh Johnson
North Carolina State University,
Apex, NC

Over 25 million Americans have been diagnosed with asthma, and of those, 16 million are between the ages of 18-64. Over 60% of asthmatics own a peak flow meter (PFM); however, only about 35% actually use their PFM due to varying factors. Regular use of a reliable PFM and monitoring of one’s respiratory vitals would create a better asthma management plan, and in-turn, reduce the effects and severity of their asthma.

The inventors wanted to somehow bridge the gap that exists between patient and physician to increase the efficacy of treatment. The Vitalflo device offers a reliable monitoring solution that helps consumers monitor their breathing, while delivering an education solution showing the best ways to manage and treat changes in their breathing through integration with their smartphone.

It fills current unmet needs by utilizing the most accurate lung capacity measurements, reducing overall device size for ease of transport and storage, integrating wireless technology to seamlessly transmit data to any smartphone or PC, functioning fully as a standalone device, and offering a dashboard of additional features and benefits.

After a series of interviews, the inventors narrowed their focus to creating an improved Peak Flow Meter, one that meshed well with current technology. It wasn’t until halfway through the design process that they discovered that Vitalflo could also be used as a spirometer. This enables them to help an even larger number of people, including those suffering from COPD. The Vitalflo device was first conceived using situational analysis tools, moved to product development, then engineering through technical advancements, and finally completed. Professionals from a variety of backgrounds allowed for the conception of a fully functional, market-ready device.

The project was backed by the ASSIST Center ( ), an Engineering Research Center at North Carolina State University. The entire Vitalflo project started from the Product Innovation Course, which allowed the research team to be mentored by faculty at the ASSIST Center.

Watch a video demonstrating Vitalflo on Tech Briefs TV. For more information, visit the entry 

Honorable Mentions

OrthoSensor Verasense System

Carlos Gil,
Orthosensor, Inc.,
Sunrise, FL

OrthoSensor Verasense System
The Verasense is an intelligent surgical device used during total knee arthoplastic surgery to help the surgeon balance and align the knee. The single-use device uses a sensor to give the surgeon feedback on load on the knee, as well as mechanical alignment of the patient’s leg. The low-power, miniaturized system seamlessly integrates within a surgical workflow and eliminates the need for expensive equipment. Its technology platform includes embedded sensor electronics and application specific integrated circuitry (ASIC), which provides data via wireless radio frequency telemetry to be displayed on a graphic user interface.

For more information, visit the entry 

Exo Dynamics — ExMS

Jorge Sanz Guerrero, Dan Johnson, Sam Beckett, Alejandro Catalan, and James Buquet,
Exo Dynamics,
Ann Arbor, MI

Exo Dynamics — ExMS
The ExMS-1 is an electromechanically activated back brace. Unlike current braces, this device focuses not on increasing abdominal pressure, but on transferring the weight of the torso to the hip. This gives support to the back muscles, thus reducing their effort. It incorporates an electronic control system that takes input from a network of sensor elements around the back brace, and then adapts the controls and actuators in real time to maintain a pre-programmed level of support. As the user moves, the orthosis tracks this motion, calculates the new parameters needed for the desired pre-programmed back support, and adapts the device accordingly.

For more information, visit the entry 

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the November, 2013 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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