An "earable" sensor can track core body temperature -- a key health indicator -- continuously.An "earable" sensor can track core body temperature -- a key health indicator -- continuously.Wearable technology is being developed for a wide range of applications from healthcare to sports fitness trackers.

One of the most basic medical indicators that is tracked via wearables is core body temperature. Changes in body temperature can indicate a range of health conditions. A high temperature indicates an infection whereas other changes indicate insomnia, fatigue, metabolic function or depression.

Current wearable electronic sensors detect skin temperature, but this can change depending on either a hot or cold environment. Oral and other thermometers are designed for periodic use and are not meant for constant detection.

Now, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley have developed a 3D printed sensor that is worn on the ear that measures core body temperature in real time and on a continuous basis.

The device integrates data processing circuits, a wireless module and an infrared sensor that detects ear temperature, which measures core body temperature. The disk-like structure covers the ear and can be customized to fit a person’s ear comfortably. The 3D printed device also contains an embedded microphone so that users can still hear while wearing the device. A Bluetooth module then transmits temperature measurements to a smartphone or other mobile device.

Researchers tested the device against commercial ear thermometers and found the sensor’s measurements closely matched the results.

The full research report can be found in the journal ACS Publications.

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