Penn State Startup ‘WearIT’ Creates Addiction Recovery Technology

After winning $10,000 through a techcelerator for startups, a lab in the department of Human Development and Family Studies is working on a new way to help people recovering from addiction.

This system, called WearIT, will use sensors from a person’s fitbit or smart watch to detect cravings. It can sense anxiety and stress, ultimately reporting it to an app on the user’s phone. A current prototype measures electric conductance on the skin to report these signals. After the notification is received, users will be able to choose from a variety of activities, like breathing exercises and games, as a distraction from their cravings.

The program will provide feedback to the patient and will even be able to track their support meetings on a calendar. An option to enter data about one’s state of mind will also be available, via quick text, a selfie, or short video options. By doing all of this, WearIT is also able to connect to a patient’s family, doctors, or counselors in order to provide real-time data.

The idea for such a program comes from Timothy Brick and Zita Oravecz, two assistant professors of human health and family studies. Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern Pennsylvania’s TechCelerator Program awarded the two professors with $10,000 in December to help bring the product to the market. The team hopes to launch the company and product this summer.

App developer James Mundie said this is a timely piece of technology with the growing opioid epidemic and that it will probably not start out as a tool for commercial audiences. It will be targeted towards addiction rehabilitation centers instead.

Rehabilitation centers are incredibly important for people battling addiction, but can be extremely expensive and time consuming. Through WearIT, patients could even sign up for a subscription-based service through a rehabilitation center. By creating technology like WearIT, these Penn State researchers hope to cut down on the time and costs of addiction rehabilitation, and make it more accessible to the people who need it.

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About the Author

Sarah D'Souza

Sarah is a senior biobehavioral health major and a staff writer for Onward State. Like basically half of Penn State, she is from "right outside Philadelphia," and is the first Nittany Lion in her family. She is an avid lover of cheese, sushi, and carbs of all sorts. Unlike most people, she loves grammar and, like most people, enjoys long walks to wherever the puppies are. Hit her up at [email protected].

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