Consumer Electronics

On-the-go electronic COVID-19 test debuts at CES

27 December 2022
SourceL Opteev/YouTube

One of the main themes of CES 2023 is Human Security For All, spotlighting how technology can help people tackle humanity’s most pressing challenges. The ViraWarn breath analyzer doesn’t have the factor of trending robotics or automotive technology, but the device has the potential to change the lives of ordinary people by helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

What is ViraWarn?

According to ViraWarn, up to 60% of people without noticeable COVID-19 symptoms are possibly inadvertently spreading the virus. That data is debatable, but the truth is that asymptomatic individuals spread the disease without ever knowing it.

The ViraWarn breath analyzer, is a portable device that can detect numerous viruses — like COVID-19, influenza, rhinovirus and the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) — in less than 60 seconds. For this innovation the company was named a CES 2023 Innovation Awards Honoree in the Digital Health category.

ViraWarn was designed to be the first line of defense to detect COVID-19. With the ViraWarn breath analyzer, people can self-test for the virus before and after interacting with other people, for example when going to work, shopping, socializing or visiting mom at the nursing home.

The ViraWarn breath analyzer is still undergoing clinical trials and has not yet been approved by the FDA, but trials in the U.S. and India indicate a 92% accuracy rate. Some early prototypes of ViraWarn products were showcased at CES 2022 but submission for approval to the FDA for the ViraWarn breath analyzer was only made in July 2022 under the trade name BrefX.

How does an AI-driven breath analyzer work?

The device operates like an inverted inhaler: a user turns it on and breathes out twice into the mouthpiece. An LED light indicates whether the results are positive (red) or negative (green).

ViraWarn uses multiple-use, replaceable, low-cost biosensor cartridges so users can self-test quickly and easily without performing unpleasant nasal swabs or blood tests. Its power source is a simple, replaceable CR2032 3V lithium coin cell battery.

For a visual explanation of how ViraWarn works, watch a YouTube video presented by Dr. Mesfin Meshesha, chief virologist at Opteev.

Science behind ViraWarn

ViraWarn leverages charge transference (CT) technology, a combination of advanced biosensors and proprietary edge AI algorithms. A carbon filter in the mouthpiece of the device sieves out large particles like ammonia and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and only allows virus-sized particles to pass through to Opteev’s proprietary silk-based chemiresistive sensor. These particles are charge carriers that, when they come in contact with the biosensor, cause a change in the conductivity and electrical parameters of the biosensor. This output electrical data is then sent from the biosensor to an internal AI processor that diagnoses a positive or negative result. A HEPA filter cleans the air released from the back of the device.

The core 32-bit Arm Cortex-M3 AI processor is designed for low-cost, high-performance, real-time processing and can handle complex tasks. From the data gathered by ViraWarn's biosensor, the device’s AI algorithms filter out false readings, set threshold values, and finally determine test results.

Read more about the sophisticated science behind ViraWarn as described in the Pre-EUA (emergency use authorization) application to the FDA.

Product releases

The ViraWarn breath analyzer is still undergoing clinical trials and is not yet for sale, but ViraWarn Plus, a virus detector for personal spaces, is available to the public. Nicknamed the Patriot, Virawarn Plus debuted at CES 2022. Tests have demonstrated close to 100% accuracy in detecting viruses in confined areas. ViraWarn Plus is not designed to monitor air quality in an entire room (although future models will be able to do this, and it is being tested in hospitals, schools and businesses). Set up on any flat surface, like a coffee or dining table or work desk, ViraWarn Plus alerts users to the presence of virus particles in small, contained areas, for instance at dinner parties or work meetings.

Final thoughts

The minor downside to ViraWarn is that it cannot distinguish between viruses, so if the results are positive users should do a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. A PCR test can detect the presence of a virus, including virus fragments from previous infections, and can differentiate between different viruses.

Check ViraWarn out at Booth No. 8317 at the Las Vegas Convention Center North Hall at CES 2023 between January 5-8, 2023.

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