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Auckland neighbourhood bands together to create world-first safety device to detect Covid-19 in vulnerable communities

An Auckland neighbourhood has created a world first device that could potentially and safely detect outbreaks like coronavirus in vulnerable communities, all from in their garages under lockdown.

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The device was created in their garages. Source: 1 NEWS

America's Cup legend Tom Schnackenberg lives near engineer Neal Radford, not far from University of Auckland scientist Nick Gant and tech expert Geoff D’audney.

In this little neighbourhood, the Nightingale was born.

As coronavirus, with fever one of its symptoms, took hold around the world, Mr D'audney wondered if travellers and vulnerable communities could have their temperatures monitored from a distance, without the need for frequent physical contact. 

“I do have an elderly grandmother living in a retirement village and she's obviously at high risk, and so just thinking about the staff that need to come in and out,” Mr D'Audney said.

Dr Gant said he knew Mr Radford through fishing. They also have kids the same age.

"He'd heard that I’d done some work years ago with the America's Cup, measuring body temperature," Dr Gant explained.

Before they could all meet, however, the country went into lockdown.

"We do do a zoom call once a week and then we'll reach out to each other with specific questions," Mr Radford said.

Just a month-and-a-half later, the prototype of the temperature-reading biosensor Nightingale was born. The matchbox-sized device slips into a band and sits just under the arm, where it will beam data across many kilometres.

It will be able to continually monitor the temperatures of multiple people in near real-time. 

“So we have a device that can last prolonged periods of time and transmit those data to anywhere in the world," Dr Gant said.

The government has thrown $260,000 behind the University of Auckland to trial it.

Oceania Healthcare residents will be device's the first recipients.

“They also can’t express often that they're feeling changes like they could be developing a fever,” Eden Rest Home's Catherine Larson said.

Until the Nightingale can be trialled, Mr Schnackenberg has been wearing it, with Mr Radford testing the coverage from his home.

"You first put it on, you think, 'Oh, this isn't much fun,' but pretty soon, you've forgot you had it," Mr Schnackenberg said.

“We'd like to be able to monitor people in community settings eventually, and hopefully, all around the world,” Dr Gant said.