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Title:
INHALER DEVICES FOR MONITORING AIRFLOW
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2018/222643
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
Introduced here are low-cost, disposable inhaler devices that monitor airflow. More specifically, an inhaler device (100) can include a robust airflow sensor (102) and a flow control valve that allows the inhaler device to provide feedback regarding inhalation effort during the administration of medication. The airflow sensor can be disposed within a primary flow channel (104) through which medication travels or a secondary flow channel through which only air travels. Feedback can be transmitted to a computing device (e.g., a mobile phone) in real time. Alternatively, feedback can be recorded to a local memory and then subsequently transmitted to the computing device. Some embodiments of the inhaler device also support a lung capacity check functionality (also referred to as a "spirometry functionality"). These features enable respiratory diseases to be treated more effectively at lower cost.

Inventors:
KRASNOW, Benjamin (1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View, California, 94043, US)
Application Number:
US2018/035011
Publication Date:
December 06, 2018
Filing Date:
May 30, 2018
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
VERILY LIFE SCIENCES LLC (1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View, California, 94043, US)
International Classes:
A61M15/00; G01P5/12; A61B5/087; A61M16/00
Foreign References:
US20140261414A12014-09-18
US5809997A1998-09-22
US20050126562A12005-06-16
US6119684A2000-09-19
US20130172690A12013-07-04
US5404871A1995-04-11
GB2105046A1983-03-16
US4413514A1983-11-08
Other References:
None
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
PETTIT, Andrew T. et al. (Perkins COIE LLP - PAO, P.O. Box 1247Seattle, Washington, 98111-1247, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1 . An inhaler device for dispensing mediation, the inhaler device comprising: a structural body that includes a recess for holding a container of medication to be inhaled by a subject;

a flow channel through which the medication travels when air is drawn through the flow channel by the subject;

a thermistor affixed within the flow channel;

an operational amplifier that passes a fixed current through the thermistor; and

a voltage monitoring circuit configured to:

monitor an output voltage of the operational amplifier

identify a variation in the output voltage exceeding a certain threshold, wherein the variation is caused by the operational amplifier attempting to maintain the fixed current, and

estimate an airflow property based on the variation.

2. The inhaler device of claim 1 , wherein the container is a packet that includes a powered medicament.

3. The inhaler device of claim 1 , wherein the container is a pressurized canister that includes an aerosol medicament.

4. The inhaler device of claim 1 , further comprising:

a locking mechanism that prevents a delivery mechanism from causing the medication to be dispensed from the container;

a mouthpiece that includes an electrode for detecting a presence of the subject's lips on the mouthpiece; and

a controller configured to:

receive a signal from the electrode indicative of a contact event between the electrode and an upper lip, a bottom lip, or an oral commissure,

2 3 generate an activation signal that causes the locking mechanism to be displaced, thereby permitting the subject to administer the medication by interacting with the delivery mechanism. 5. The inhaler device of claim 4, wherein the delivery mechanism includes a trigger button that, upon being activated, causes the medication to be dispensed from the container.

6. The inhaler device of claim 4, wherein the electrode is one of multiple electrodes that are exposed through an exterior surface of the mouthpiece.

7. An inhaler device comprising:

a structural body that includes a recess for holding a container of medication to be inhaled by a subject;

a thermistor affixed within a flow channel through which air travels during inhalations or exhalations by the subject;

an electrical circuit configured to pass a fixed current through the thermistor; and

a controller configured to:

identify a variation in output voltage of the electrical circuit caused by the electrical circuit attempting to maintain the fixed current, and estimate an airflow characteristic based on the variation,

8. The inhaler device of claim 7, further comprising:

an electronics compartment that includes:

a power component; and

a communication module configured to wirelessly transmit information to a computing device across a network;

wherein the controller is further configured to:

acquire voltage data that includes measurements of output voltage of the electrical circuit,

parse the voltage data to discover a variation exceeding a certain threshold, and

associate the variation with a timestamp generated by a clock module.

9. The inhaler device of claim 8, wherein the electronics compartment is detachable connectable to the structural body.

10. The inhaler device of claim 8, wherein the information includes the airflow characteristic, the variation, the timestamp, the voltage data, or any combination thereof.

1 1 . The inhaler device of claim 8, wherein the controller is further configured to: acquire an administration schedule associated with a medication regimen that requires administration of the medication from a memory; compare the timestamp to the administration schedule; and

determine a compliance status for the subject based on the comparison,

wherein the compliance status is included in the information transmitted to the computing device by the communication module.

12. The inhaler device of claim 1 1 , wherein, upon receipt of the information, the computing device is configured to transmit a notification specifying the compliance status to an individual other than the subject,

13. The inhaler device of claim 7, wherein the flow channel is a primary flow channel through which the medication travels when air is drawn in during an inhalation by the subject.

14. The inhaler device of claim 7, wherein the flow channel is a secondary flow channel through which only air travels when air is expelled out during an exhalation by the subject.

15. The inhaler device of claim 14, further comprising:

a flapper valve affixed within a primary flow channel through which the medication travels when air is drawn in during an inhalation by the subject;

wherein the controller is further configured to: acquire voltage data generated by the electrical circuit, parse the voltage data to discover a variation,

determine that the variation corresponds to a change in airflow speed of at least a certain amount, and

generate a signal to actuate the flapper value, thereby allowing the subject to inhale the medication through the primary flow channel.

16. A method for monitoring airflow through a flow channel of an inhaler device, the method comprising:

providing a fixed current to a thermistor that is affixed within the flow channel of the inhaler device,

wherein the thermistor is connected to an electrical circuit configured to alter output voltage in an attempt to maintain the fixed current; parsing voltage data generated by the electrical circuit to defect a variation in output voltage caused by a change in ambient air temperature, wherein the voltage data includes a series of output voltage measurements taken over an interval of time;

estimating a change in air temperature based on the variation in output voltage,

wherein the change in air temperature is caused by an inhalation or an exhalation by a subject; and

estimating an airflow speed based on the change in air temperature.

The method of claim 16, further comprising:

before providing the fixed current to the thermistor,

examining a discrete output voltage measurement generated by the electrical circuit; and

estimating an ambient air temperature based on the discrete output voltage measurement.

The method of claim 16, further comprising:

creating a flow profile based on the series of output voltage measurements; and determining a flow characteristic based on the flow profile.

19. The method of claim 16, further comprising:

analyzing sensor data generated by a sensor disposed proximate to a mouthpiece of the inhaler device;

determining, based on the sensor data, that a cap has been removed from the mouthpiece; and

generating, in response to said determining, a signal that causes the fixed current to be provided to the thermistor.

20, The method of claim 16, wherein the sensor is an optical sensor or a mechanical sensor.

Description:
[0001] This application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Application No.

62/512,831 , titled "Inhaler Devices for Monitoring Airflow" and filed on May 30, 2017, which is incorporated by reference herein in its entirety.

TECHNICAL FIELD

[0002] Various embodiments concern inhaler devices that are able to monitor airflow before, during, or after administration of a medication.

BACKGROUND [0003] Respiratory diseases are often treated using medications that must be inhaled by an individual on a regular basis. For example, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can be treated with a dry powder, while asthma can be treated with an aerosol mist of liquid particles. Accordingly, inhaler devices have been created that make it convenient for individuals to inhale their doses of medication. An inhaler device may include, for example, an internal reel of thirty packets of medication or a canister that contains an aerosol mist under pressure.

[0004] However, when individuals misuse their inhaler devices, they typically do not receive the proper dose of medication. For instance, if an individual does not inhale forcefully enough, then the medication may become stuck in the throat where it is less effective. Because conventional inhaler devices do not monitor airflow, the individuals who use these conventional inhaler devices (as well as researchers and medical professionals, such as physicians and nurses) do not know how well the medication is being administered. This makes respiratory diseases difficult to treat.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0005] Various features and characteristics of the technology will become more apparent to those skilled in the art from a study of the Detailed Description in conjunction with the drawings. Embodiments of the technology are illustrated by way of example and not limitation in the drawings, in which like references may indicate similar elements,

[0006] Figure 1 depicts an inhaler device that includes a flow sensor disposed within a flow channel.

[0007] Figure 2 illustrates how the flow sensor can be attached to thin axial wires using standard soldering techniques, and then securably affixed within the flow channel 104 of the inhaler device.

[0008] Figure 3 depicts a flow sensor that is disposed within the mouthpiece of an inhaler device.

[0009] Figure 4 is a diagrammatic illustration of an electrical circuit that can be used to pass current through a thermistor, thereby causing its temperature to increase due to resistive heating,

[0010] Figure 5 depicts an inhaler device that includes one or more electrodes disposed along the mouthpiece.

[0011] Figure 6A depicts an inhaler device that includes an electronics

compartment.

[0012] Figure 6B is a block diagram of the electronics compartment, which can be configured to acquire, parse, and/or analyze data generated by the inhaler device.

[0013] Figure 7 depicts an example of a network environment that includes an inhaler device, a mobile phone, and a network-accessible server system. [0014] Figure 8 depicts a flow diagram of a process for monitoring the airflow through a flow channel of an inhaler device.

[0015] Figure 9 depicts a flow diagram of a process for measuring the total volume of air inspired or expired by the lungs.

[0016] Figure 10 is a block diagram illustrating an example of a processing system in which at least some operations described herein can be implemented. [0017] The drawings depict various embodiments for the purpose of illustration only. Those skilled in the art will recognize that alternative embodiments may be employed without departing from the principles of the technology. Accordingly, while specific embodiments are shown in the drawings, the technology is amenable to various modifications.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0018] Metered dose inhalers are handheld inhaler devices that deliver a specific amount of medication in aerosol form, rather than as a pill or capsule. Dry powder inhalers, meanwhile, are handheld inhaler devices that deliver a specific amount of medication in dry powder form. Although embodiments may be described in the context of either metered dose inhalers or dry powder inhalers, the features described herein can be used with either type of inhaler device,

[0019] Many respiratory diseases require the use of metered dose inhalers and/or dry powder inhalers. Metered dose inhalers are typically intended to provide immediate relief while dry powder inhalers are typically intended to improve long- term outcomes, so compliance with a medication regimen is especially important. However, monitoring compliance is often difficult for a variety of reasons,

[0020] For example, if a medical professional wishes to check the status of a respiratory disease, the individual affected by the respiratory disease must travel to a medical facility for a lung capacity check. To better understand disease progression, the medical professional may ask the individual to visit the medical facility on a periodic basis (e.g., daily, weekly, or monthly). But making frequent trips can be inconvenient, in particular because a lung capacity check is a simple test that does not take much time to complete. Frequent trips can also be particularly burdensome if the individual is suffering from an advanced form of a serious respiratory disease.

[0021] Introduced here, therefore, are low-cost, disposable inhaler devices configured to perform airflow monitoring. More specifically, an inhaler device can include a robust airflow sensor and a flow control valve that allows the inhaler device to provide feedback regarding inhalation effort before, during, or after the

administration of medication. In some embodiments the feedback is transmitted to a computing device in real time, while in other embodiments the feedback is recorded to a local memory and then subsequently transmitted to the computing device.

Examples of computing devices include wearable electronic devices (e.g., fitness trackers and watches), mobile phones, laptop computers, computer servers, etc. Some embodiments of the inhaler device also support a lung capacity check functionality (also referred to as a "spirometry functionality"). Thus, the inhaler device may also be configured to provide feedback regarding exhalation effort before, during, or after the administration of medication. These features enable respiratory diseases to be treated more effectively at lower cost.

[0022] When an individual places her lips on the mouthpiece of an inhaler device, one or more electrodes can detect that the inhaler device is properly positioned against the lips. The eiectrode(s) may be arranged in a specified pattern that is known to be indicative of a secure seal by the lips. For example, in some

embodiments four electrodes are equally distributed along the exterior perimeter surface of the mouthpiece to ensure that the lips have formed a seal around the mouthpiece, while in other embodiments a single electrode is used to detect the presence of the top lip or the bottom lip.

[0023] Embodiments may be described with reference to particular computer programs, system configurations, networks, etc. However, those skilled in the art will recognize that these features are equally applicable to other computer program types, system configurations, network types, etc. For example, while an

embodiment may be described in the context of a certain type of inhaler device, those skilled in the art will recognize that the relevant feature is equally applicable when using another type of inhaler device.

[0024] Moreover, the technology can be embodied using special-purpose hardware (e.g., circuitry), programmable circuitry appropriately programmed with software and/or firmware, or a combination of special-purpose hardware and programmable circuitry. Accordingly, embodiments may include a machine-readable medium having instructions that may be used to program a computing device to perform a process for parsing airflow data generated by a flow sensor to determine when medication should be administered, whether a medication has been effective in treating a respiratory disease, etc. The instructions may also be used to program a computing device to perform a process for parsing administration data to

determine whether an individual has administered a medication in compliance with a medication regimen.

[0025] References in this description to "an embodiment" or "one embodiment" means that the particular feature, function, structure, or characteristic being described is included in at least one embodiment. Occurrences of such phrases do not necessarily refer to the same embodiment, nor are they necessarily referring to alternative embodiments that are mutually exclusive of one another.

[0026] Unless the context clearly requires otherwise, the words "comprise" and "comprising" are to be construed in an inclusive sense rather than an exclusive or exhaustive sense (i.e., in the sense of "including but not limited to"). The terms "connected," "coupled," or any variant thereof is intended to include any connection or coupling between two or more elements, either direct or indirect. The

coupling/connection can be physical, logical, or a combination thereof. For example, devices may be electrically or communicatively coupled to one another despite not sharing a physical connection.

[0027] The term "based on" is also to be construed in an inclusive sense rather than an exclusive or exhaustive sense. Thus, unless otherwise noted, the term "based on" is intended to mean "based at least in part on."

[0028] The term "module" refers broadly to software components, hardware components, and/or firmware components. Modules are typically functional components that can generate useful data or other output(s) based on specified input(s). A module may be self-contained. A computer program may include one or more modules. Thus, a computer program may include multiple modules

responsible for completing different tasks or a single module responsible for completing ail tasks.

[0029] When used in reference to a list of multiple items, the word "of is intended to cover all of the following interpretations: any of the items in the list, ail of the items in the list, and any combination of items in the list.

[0030] The sequences of steps performed in any of the processes described here are exemplary. However, unless contrary to physical possibility, the steps may be performed in various sequences and combinations. For example, steps could be added to, or removed from, the processes described here. Similarly, steps could be replaced or reordered. Thus, descriptions of any processes are intended to be open- ended. Technology Overview [0031] Figure 1 depicts an inhaler device 100 that includes a flow sensor 102 disposed within a flow channel 104. Here, the flow sensor 102 is disposed within the flow channel 104 through which an individual inhales medication. However, in other embodiments the flow sensor 102 is disposed within a separate flow channel through which only air flows. For example, one or more flapper valves may obstruct a main flow channel through which the individual inhales medication until a flow sensor 102 disposed within a secondary flow channel determines that the individual is likely to inhale the medication with sufficient force. In such embodiments, the flow sensor 102 may monitor airflow through the secondary flow channel and then, responsive to a determination that the airflow exceeds a force threshold, generate a signal that causes the flapper vaive(s) to be displaced, thereby permitting airflow through the main flow channel. Flapper valve(s) may also obstruct the secondary flow channel. For example, the flapper valve(s) in the main flow channel may work in concert with the flapper vaive(s) in the secondary flow channel so that airflow can only travel through one channel at any given point in time.

[0032] The flow sensor 102 may be an anemometer that is configured to measure the speed of wind (i.e., breath) traveling through the flow channel 104. For example, the flow sensor 102 could be a hot wire anemometer (also referred to as a

"thermistor") that is able to detect airflow through the flow channel 104, Thermistors use a fine wire (generally on the order of several micrometers) that is heated to some temperature above the ambient temperature. In some embodiments, the thermistor includes standard surface-mounted components of the smallest size commonly available (e.g., size 0402 chip thermistors or size 0201 chip thermistors). Such components enable the flow sensor 102 to be embedded within the inhaler device 100 without major changes in device design.

[0033] The inhaler device 100 also includes a structural body 106 that includes a recess for holding a container of medication (also referred to as a "medicament") to be inhaled by an individual (also referred to as the "subject" of a medication regimen). For example, in some embodiments the container is a packet that includes a powdered medicament, while in other embodiments the container is a pressurized canister that includes an aerosol medicament. Thus, the recess may take the form of an internal cavity within the structural body 106 or a receptacle interface adapted to receive pressurized canisters.

[0034] Figure 2 illustrates how the flow sensor 102 can be attached to thin axial wires 106 using standard soldering techniques, and then securabiy affixed within the flow channel 104 of the inhaler device 100, When an individual draws air (and, in some instances, medication) through the flow channel 104 by inhaling, the air flowing through the flow channel 104 passes over and around the flow sensor 102, Because the axial wires 106 are thin, j[PAT(i]most thermal leakage out of the flow sensor 102 is into the air rather than through the axial wires 106. [0035] Air flowing through the flow channel 104 will typically cool the flow sensor 102, In some embodiments, the flow sensor 102 is a thermistor. A thermistor is a type of negative coefficient resistor whose resistance is dependent on temperature. Accordingly, the resistance of a thermistor will go down as the temperature of the thermistor rises. Because the electrical resistance of most metals is dependent on temperature, the relationship between airflow speed and thermistor resistance can be readily established by the inhaler device 100 or some other computing device based on data generated by the flow sensor 102.

[0036] The configuration shown here also enables the inhaler device 100 to support airflow sensing functionality without requiring the addition of any moving parts (e.g., flapper valves) that would complicate the design of the inhaler device 100, Moreover, the addition of one or more anemometers to an inhaler device is often very inexpensive.

[0037] Figure 3 depicts a flow sensor 302 that is disposed within the mouthpiece 304 of an inhaler device 300. While the flow sensor 302 shown here will be positioned proximate to an individual's mouth during use, the flow sensor 302 could be placed anywhere in or near the flow channel through which medication is delivered. Because the inhaler device 300 could be a metered dose inhaler or a dry power inhaler, the medication could be in the form of a powder, an aerosol, etc.

[0038] Figure 4 is a diagrammatic illustration of an electrical circuit 400 that can be used to pass current through a thermistor 402, thereby causing its temperature to increase due to resistive heating. The thermistor 402 may be, for example, the flow sensor 1 02 of Figures 1 -2 or the flow sensor 302 of Figure 3, The electrical circuit 400 can estimate the temperature of the thermistor 402 by monitoring the resistance of the thermistor 402. In fact, certain characteristics of the airflow (e.g., speed and volume) can be determined based on the change in resistance of the thermistor 402. For example, at higher airspeeds, the temperature of the thermistor 402 will generally be lower for a fixed current.

[0039] Some embodiments implement the electrical circuit 400 by using an operational amplifier (also referred to as an "op-amp" or "opamp") 404 to pass a fixed current through the thermistor 402. Because the op-amp 404 controllabiy varies its output voltage to maintain a constant current, the output voltage (Vout) 406 of the opamp 404 will indicate changes in the resistance of the thermistor 402. Said another way, Vout 406 correlates with heat loss in the thermistor 402. Changes in the resistance of the thermistor 402 (and thus changes in Vout 406) can be used to estimate changes in air temperature and airflow speed, A voltage monitoring circuit 408 can be configured to monitor Vout 406, identify a variation in Vout 406 that exceeds a certain threshold, and cause an airflow property to be estimated based on the variation. The variation may be caused by an inhalation or an exhalation.

[0040] Note, however, that accurately determining the airflow based on changes in the thermistors resistance also requires that the ambient air temperature be known. Because the use cases of an inhaler device are inherently discrete (i.e., an individual opens the inhaler device, draws air through a flow channel, and then closes the inhaler device), the thermistor 402 itself can be used to determine the ambient air temperature before the fixed current is applied by the op-amp 404. For example, the electrical circuit 400 may measure the ambient temperature

immediately after an individual detaches a cover from the mouthpiece of an inhaler device.

[0041 ] The first measurement (i.e., measuring for the ambient temperature) can be viewed as a discrete measurement of Vout 406, while the second measurement (i.e., measuring for airflow speed) can be viewed as a continuous measurement of Vout 406. Once an individual begins breathing into the inhaler device, Vout 406 can be continually recorded and plotted as a continuous waveform that can be associated with the temperature and speed of the individual's breath. [0042] This technique enables a single thermistor to measure both the ambient temperature and the temperature of the subsequent airflow. These actions are typically performed by a set of multiple thermistors (e.g. , a heated thermistor and an unheated thermistor). Accordingly, the airflow sensing functionality can be enabled without requiring the addition of components that increase the complexity of the inhaler device as a whole. As further described below, the airflow temperature could also be approximated as body temperature (~98.6°F) when the inhaler device is functioning as a spirometer, which again avoids the addition of component(s) that would conventionally be necessary to measure airflow. The temperature determined during the ambient measurement can also be used throughout an airflow monitoring session as a baseline since any other airflow measurernent(s) will occur soon after the ambient temperature is measured.

[0043] Figure 5 depicts an inhaler device 500 that includes one or more

electrodes 502 disposed along the mouthpiece 504, The embodiment shown here includes multiple electrodes arranged along opposite sides of the mouthpiece.

However, other embodiments of the inhaler device 500 may include a single electrode or multiple electrodes arranged along a single side of the mouthpiece 504. The electrode(s) 502 are typically embedded within the mouthpiece 504 such that the eiectrode(s) 502 are exposed along an exterior surface with which an individual's lips make contact. As shown in Figure 5, the electrode(s) 502 could also be exposed along an interior surface of the mouthpiece 504, though the interior surface will generally not come into contact with the individual.

[0044] When an individual places her lips on the mouthpiece 504, the eiectrode(s) 502 can detect that the inhaler device 500 is properly positioned within the mouth. The eiectrode(s) 502 may be arranged in a specified pattern that is known to be indicative of a secure seal by the individual's lips. For example, in some

embodiments four electrodes are equally distributed along the perimeter of the mouthpiece 504 to ensure the lips have formed a seal around the mouthpiece 504, while in other embodiments a single electrode is used to detect the presence of the top lip, the bottom lip, or either oral commissure.

[0045] The electrode(s) 502 may also be able to detect and/or record contact events. A contact event indicates that the individual has placed her lips on the corresponding electrode. Contact events may be embodied, for example, as variations in an electrical signal (e.g., a capacitance signal, impedance signal, or resistance signal measured by the electrode(s) 502) that exceed a specified amount.

[0046] The inhaler device 500 may only allow medication to be administered upon receiving an indication that a contact event has been recorded by some or all of the eiectrode(s) 502. For example, in some embodiments the inhaler device 500 includes a locking mechanism that prevents a delivery mechanism (e.g., a trigger button) from causing medication to be dispensed and an electromechanical actuator that, when activated, displaces the locking mechanism. Responsive to receiving a signal from the electrode(s) 502 indicative of a contact event, a processor can transmit an activation signal to the electromechanical actuator. The activation signal causes the electromechanical actuator to displace the locking mechanism, thereby permitting the individual to administer the medication by interacting with the delivery mechanism. [0047] This technique prevents medication from being lost due to accidental triggering of an administration or misunderstanding of how the inhaler device 500 is to be used. Moreover, rather than rely on improvements in subject performance (e.g., due to teaching), the technology instead modifies the design of the inhaler device 500 to improve effectiveness in administering medication. [0048] The electrode(s) 502 are typically intended to be contacted by the upper lip, bottom lip, and/or oral commissure(s). However, an electrode could also be arranged such that the individual can place her tongue against the electrode. For example, the mouthpiece 504 of the inhaler device 500 may include an additional electrode disposed along one of the longitudinal sides (here, the top side or the bottom side) that the individual can place her tongue against before or during administration of the medication. This ensures that the tongue does not occlude airflow (which may include medication in an aerosol form or powder form) through the mouth and into the throat,

[0049] Some embodiments of the inhaler device 500 include a mechanical lip sensor rather than, or in addition to, the eiectrode(s) 502. The mechanical lip sensor can physically prevent the delivery mechanism from being activated unless the individual's lips have applied sufficient pressure to displace the mechanical lip sensor.

[0050] Figure 6A depicts an inhaler device 600 that includes an electronics compartment 602. Figure 6B is a block diagram of the electronics compartment 602, which can be configured to acquire, parse, and/or analyze data generated by the inhaler device 600. The electronics compartment 602 can house a variety of components, including one or more processors 604, a communication modules 606, a memory storage device 614, a power component 608 (e.g., a battery), etc.

Embodiments of the electronics compartment 602 can include some or ail of these components, as well as other components now described here. For example, the electronics compartment 602 may include an analytics module 610 capable of examining voltage data associated with a flow sensor (e.g., thermistor 402 of Figure 4) to detect variations in airflow speed and/or airflow temperature. As another example, the electronics compartment 602 may include a processing module 612 capable of parsing, formatting, and/or aligning data associated with administrators of medication. For instance, the processing module 612 may filter contact event data prior to storage so that only those contact events associated with administrations of medication are actually recorded.

[0051 ] Additionally or alternatively, the analytics module 610 may be capable of examining contact event data associated with eiectrode(s) (e.g., electrode(s) 502 of Figure 5) to detect when an individual has placed the inhaler device 600 within her mouth, and thus when medication should be administered. For example, the analytics module 610 could parse the contact event data to discover contact event(s) embodied as variations in an electrical signal (e.g., capacitance variations) exceeding a specified amount, and then associate each contact event with a timestamp generated by a clock module.

[0052] Accordingly, the analytics module 610 may be configured to determine when medication should be administered using the voltage data and/or the contact event data. For example, some embodiments of the inhaler device 600 may include one or more valves (e.g., flapper values) that naturally obstruct the flow channel through which an individual inhales medication. By analyzing the voltage data (e.g., Vout 406 of Figure 4), the analytics module 610 can identify when the individual has begun inhaling and prompt the inhaler device 600 to activate the valves so that medication can flow through the flow channel into the individual's mouth.

[0053] As another example, some embodiments of the inhaler device 600 may include an electromechanical actuator that naturally prevents a delivery mechanism (e.g., a trigger button) from being pressed. The electromechanical actuator can include a small solenoid that displaces a locking mechanism for the delivery mechanism. The locking mechanism is typically held in place by a spring. By analyzing the contact event data, the analytics module 610 may activate the electromechanical actuator (thereby allowing the individual to interact with the delivery mechanism) after determining that the individual has placed her lips against the mouthpiece of the inhaler device 600.

[0054] The electronics compartment 602 can also include one or more

communication modules 606 that are able to send and/or receive data over wireless communication protocols, such as Wi~Fi, Bluetooth®, Near Field Communication (NFC), radio-frequency identification (RF!D), wireless Universal Serial Bus (USB), cellular, a proprietary point-to-point protocol, etc. The data may include contact event data, indications of the contact event(s) detected by the analytics module 610, the timestamp(s) identified by the analytics module 610, voltage data, inhaler device information (e.g., connectivity status, battery status, or number of uses remaining), etc.

[0055] In some embodiments, the electronics compartment 602 includes a physical connector for communicating with another computing device over a wired channel. Examples of physical connectors include USB Type-A/B/C, Micro-USB, and proprietary ports (e.g., Apple Lightning®). The physical connector may allow transport of data, power, or both. Accordingly, in some embodiments the electronics compartment 602 includes a rechargeable battery that is electrically connected to the wired channel. Additionally or alternatively, the electronics compartment 602 may include a dedicated battery (e.g., a small single cell battery such as a button cell) having a lifespan of weeks, months, or years. [0056] The electronics compartment 602 may be fixedly attached to the inhaler device 600 through the use of permanent/semi-permanent adhesives, fixtures, etc. In such embodiments, the electronics compartment 602 is disposed of along with the inhaler device 600 when all of the medication has been administered or an individual has completed a medication regimen. Alternatively, the electronics compartment 602 may be detachably connected to the inhaler device 600 through the use of a quick release mechanism (e.g., magnets or mechanical features such as clips, tracks, etc.). In such embodiments, the individual could remove the electronics compartment 602 from the inhaler device 600 and place the electronics compartment 602 on another inhaler device. Similarly, the individual could simply remove the electronics compartment 602 before retrieving data (e.g., voltage data, health data, and/or contact event data) stored within its memory. Thus, some embodiments of the electronics compartment 602 may conceal a physical connector when the electronics compartment 602 is affixed to the inhaler device 600.

[0057] Some embodiments of the electronics compartment 602 are able to provide visual, audible, and/or tactile notifications. For example, the electronics compartment 602 may include one or more light sources (e.g., light-emitting diodes) that are able to provide visual notifications. The light source(s) may pulse red when an individual is due to administer medication, blue when the electronics compartment 602 is communicatively connected to another computing device (e.g., a mobile phone), and green when the electronics compartment 602 has successfully uploaded data to the other computing device. As another example, the electronics

compartment 602 could include one or more haptic actuators able to generate forces, vibrations, or motions. As yet another example, the electronics compartment 602 could include one or more speakers for audibly delivering instructions for administering medication, feedback regarding past administrators or respiratory disease progression, etc. The electronics compartment 602 may also include one or more microphones that, together with the speaker(s), enables the individual to converse with another person (e.g., a pharmacist able to provide instructions for administering medication, a nurse able to monitor adherence to a medication regimen, etc.). [0058] Figure 7 depicts an example of a network environment 700 that includes an inhaler device 702, a mobile phone 704, and a network-accessible server system 706. The inhaler device 702, mobile phone 704, and/or server system 706 can be connected via one or more computer networks 708a-c, which may include the Internet, personal area networks (PANs), local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), metropolitan area networks (MANs), cellular networks, etc.

Additionally or alternatively, the inhaler device 702, mobile phone 704, and/or server system 706 may communicate with one another over a short-range communication protocol, such as Bluetooth® or NFC.

[0059] The inhaler device 702 can continually or periodically transmit data associated with administrations of medication to a computer program executing on the mobile phone 704. In some embodiments, the inhaler device 702 automatically syncs with the computer program so long as the inhaler device 702 and the mobile phone 704 are communicatively coupled via a Bluetooth© communication channel. Additionally or alternatively, the inhaler device 702 may periodically sync with the computer program at a specified time (e.g., hourly, daily, or weekly), when available memory on the inhaler device 702 falls below a specified threshold, when the inhaler device 702 and the mobile phone 704 are communicatively coupled to the same network, etc.

[0060] Those skilled in the art will recognize that a mobile phone has been used for the purpose of illustration only. Other examples of computing devices that can be communicatively connected to the inhaler device 702 include tablet computers, laptop computers, desktop computers, computer servers, network-connected

("smart") home appliances (e.g., televisions, speakers, and assistant devices), game consoles, mobile gaming devices, television-connected devices (e.g., streaming players and Blu-ray Disc™ players), wearable devices (e.g., watches and fitness trackers), virtual/augmented reality systems (e.g., head-mounted displays), etc. [0061] Generally, the inhaler device 702 is responsible for generating data associated with administrations of medication by an individual. The administration data may include contact events detected by electrode(s) disposed along a mouthpiece of the inhaler device 702, timestamps associated with the contact events, capacitance measurements indicating duration of usage, voltage

measurements corresponding to a thermistor disposed within a flow channel of the inhaler device 702, flow profile(s) indicating breath temperature/speed/duration, dosing measurements indicative the date and/or time of administration, lung capacity measurements, etc. The inhaler device 702 may also be configured to track the number of doses remaining, determine the appropriate dosing amounts, detect environmental characteristics (e.g., smog level, pollution level, allergen levels), etc.

[0062] As noted above, the inhaler device 702 can be configured to transmit the administration data to the mobile phone 704 for further analysis. For example, upon receiving the health data, the mobile phone 704 may compare timestamp(s) corresponding to contact event(s) to ad administration schedule associated with a medication regimen that requires administration of the medication, and then determine a compliance status based on the comparison. The mobile phone 704 may also generate a notification that specifies the compliance status and, in some instances, transmit the notification to another computing device associated with another individual. The other individual could be, for example, a medical

professional, researcher, or family member of the individual responsible for administering the medication, [0063] Secure communication between the inhaler device 702 and the mobile phone 704 can be ensured by having these computing devices complete a key exchange. Thus, the inhaler device 702 can encrypt data and transmit the encrypted data to the mobile phone 704 (e.g., over a Bluetooth® communication channel). The mobile phone 704 can then decrypt the encrypted data using a corresponding key. In some embodiments a similar technique is used to encrypt and decrypt data transmitted by the mobile phone 704 to the inhaler device 702, while in other embodiments no communications are delivered back to the inhaler device 702 (i.e. , the inhaler device 702 operates in transmit-only mode). Keys can be exchanged between the inhaler device 702 and the mobile phone 704 in several different ways. For example, an individual may use the mobile phone 704 to scan a machine- readable code (e.g. , a Quick Response (QR) code or a bar code) located on the packaging of the inhaler device 702 or on the inhaler device 702 itself.

[0064] An individual can then review the data on the mobile phone 704, For example, an individual may view an interface that indicates whether the individual's lips have formed a secure seal around the mouthpiece. As another example, the individual may review certain metrics that indicate whether administration of a medication in compliance with a medication regimen has slowed or halted progression of a respiratory disease. The network-accessible server system 706 could also transmit some or all of the data to another computing device for review by another individual. For example, a medical professional (e.g., a physician or a nurse) may wish to periodically analyze airflow speed or total lung capacity in order to determine whether a current medication regimen is effective. As another example, a physician, insurance provider, or inhaler manufacturer may monitor the effectiveness of a given medication across a group of patients to ascertain effectiveness in treating certain respiratory conditions.

[0065] Figure 8 depicts a flow diagram of a process 800 for monitoring the airflow through a flow channel of an inhaler device. An inhaler device can initially detect that a cap has been removed from a mouthpiece (step 801 ). For example, some embodiments of the inhaler device include optical sensor(s) that detect whether the cap is disposed between an emitter and a detector, while other embodiments include mechanical sensor(s) (e.g., latches and other pressure mechanisms) that detect pressure caused by the cap when it is affixed to the mouthpiece.

[0066] The inhaler device can measure the ambient air temperature by detecting the output voltage of an op-amp connected to a thermistor disposed within the flow channel of the inhaler device (step 802). Generally, this is a single (i.e., discrete) measurement taken during or shortly after removal of the cap from the mouthpiece. However, a series of measurements could also be taken during or shortly after removal of the cap from the mouthpiece. For example, the output voltage of the op- amp may be measured multiple times in quick succession and these measurements may be averaged to establish a single average output voltage for determining the ambient air temperature. [0067] The inhaler device can then cause the op-amp to provide a fixed current to the thermistor (step 803). Because the op-amp will alter its output voltage in an attempt to maintain the fixed current, changes in the output voltage of the op-amp (e.g., Vout 406 of Figure 4) will correspond to changes in the resistance of the thermistor. Said another way, the output voltage of the op-amp correlates with heat loss in the thermistor. Accordingly, the inhaler device can detect the output voltage of the op-amp (step 804), and then estimate the corresponding changes in ambient air temperature and/or airflow speed based on the output voltage (step 605) - A ^ \ [0068] As noted above, the second measurement of the output voltage can be viewed as a continuous measurement of the output voltage of the op-amp. When an individual begins breathing into the inhaler device, the output voltage will begin to vary as the temperature of the air passing over the thermistor varies. Thus, the output voltage could be continually recorded and plotted as a continuous waveform. This waveform can be used to estimate changes in the ambient air temperature and airflow speed (i.e., the speed of the individual's breath during an inhalation or exhalation).

[0069] Some embodiments of inhaler devices also include the ability to measure, record, and transmit respiratory data (e.g., respiratory rate and total lung capacity). Said another way, some embodiments of inhaler devices include a spirometer functionality,

[0070] To function as a spirometer, an inhaler device may include a one-way valve (also referred to as a "flapper valve") that is activated by the air pressure produced by an individual's lungs. When the individual inhales (thereby producing a pressure lower than the ambient pressure), the one-way valve moves such that the mouthpiece of the inhaler device is connected to the medication chamber and medication can be Introduced into the airstream that travels through a primary flow channel. However, when the patient exhales (and produces a pressure higher than the ambient pressure), the one-way valve can swing shut and direct the airflow through a secondary flow channel that bypasses the medication chamber and directs the airflow out of the inhaler device. PAT(3]

[0071] In such embodiments, the secondary flow channel can include a thermistor that detects variations in airflow. Total lung capacity can be estimated based on these variations in airflow. The position of the one-way valve could be monitored by capacitive, inductive, mechanical, optical, or magnetic sensing. In some

embodiments, a processor uses the position of the one-way valve to control the heating and/or sensing of the thermistor. For example, the thermistor may be configured to only output voltage data in response to a determination that the one- way valve is presently allowing air to travel through the secondary flow channel. [0072] Alternatively, multiple one-way valves could be used to ensure that air is drawn out of the medication chamber of the inhaler device and into the secondary flow channel of the inhaler device. These one-way valves, which may be comprised of thin rubber, may open only when there is a pressure differential in the correct direction.

[0073] Figure 9 depicts a flow diagram of a process 900 for measuring the total volume of air inspired or expired by the lungs. The inhaler device can initially prompt an individual to blow into the inhaler device (step 901 ). For example, the inhaler device may be able to visually notify the individual via a display or light-emitting diode(s), audibly notify the individual via a speaker, or tactilely notify the individual via haptic actuator(s). Note that another computing device (e.g., a mobile phone) could also or instead be responsible for prompting the individual to blow into the inhaler device. Steps 902-903 of Figure 9 are largely identical to steps 802-803 of Figure 8. [0074] As noted above, some embodiments of the inhaler device include a oneway valve that directs the individual ' s breath over a thermistor and out of the inhaler device (step 904). For example, the inhaler device may include a main flow channel through which medication is inhaled and a secondary flow channel through which air is exhaled. The secondary flow channel may extend through the inhaler device such that the individual's breath exits the secondary flow channel and enters the ambient environment.

[0075] Because the op-amp controiiably varies its output voltage in an attempt to maintain the fixed current, variations in the output voltage can be used to identify instances of heat loss in the thermistor. The inhaler device can create a flow profile by measuring the output voltage of the op-amp responsible for supplying the fixed current to the thermistor (step 905). The flow profile can also be used to estimate the total lung capacity of the individual. For example, the flow profile can be charted as a pneumotachograph, which plots the volume and flow of air coming in and out of the lungs from one inhalation and one exhalation. From a pneumotachograph, an analytics module can readily discover different features such as the forced vital capacity (FVC), forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1 ), forced expiratory flow (FEF), peak expiratory flow (PEF), tidal volume (TV), total lung capacity (TLC), etc.

[0076] Moreover, due to the presence of the one-way value in the secondary flow channel, the inhaler device enables the individual to use the inhaler device as would normally occur following the lung capacity measurement (step 906).

[0077] Unless contrary to physical possibility, it is envisioned that the steps described above may be performed in various sequences by various computing devices. For example, in some embodiments the analytics module responsible for analyzing voltage data generated by the flow sensor resides entirety on the inhaler device, while in other embodiments the analytics module at least partially resides on another computing device (e.g., a mobile phone that is communicatively coupled to the inhaler device). As another example, process 800 of Figure 8 may be performed several times over an interval of time (e.g., a day, week, or month) to monitor compliance with a medication regimen. [0078] Other steps may also be included in some embodiments. For example, if the analytics module determines that the compliance level has fallen below a certain threshold (e.g., due to the individual missing consecutive doses or multiple doses within a certain timespan), the analytics module may cause a notification to be generated. The notification could be delivered to the individual, a medical professional, an insurance provider, a researcher, etc. Moreover, the notification may be in the form of an email message, a text message, a push notification, an automated voice message, etc.

[0079] As another example, the inhaler device could be communicatively coupled to another computing device (e.g., a mobile phone) that allows data (e.g., voltage data, health data, or contact event data) to be associated with geographical coordinates that specify a location. This process, which is known as "geotagging," permits information relevant to the administration of the medication to be retrieved and associated with individual administrations of medication. Examples of such information include the smog level, pollution level, allergen level, etc. Processing Systems [0080] Figure 10 is a biock diagram illustrating an example of a processing system 1000 in which at least some operations described herein can be

implemented. For example, at least some components of the processing system 1000 may be hosted on an inhaler device (e.g., inhaler device 600 of Figure 6). As another example, at least some components of the processing system 1000 may be hosted on a computing device that is communicatively coupled to an inhaler device,

[0081] The processing system may include one or more central processing units ("processors") 1002, main memory 1006, non-volatile memory 1010, network adapter 1012 (e.g., network interfaces), video display 1018, input/output devices 1020, control device 1022 (e.g., keyboard and pointing devices), drive unit 1024 including a storage medium 1026, and signal generation device 1030 that are communicatively connected to a bus 1016. The bus 1016 is illustrated as an abstraction that represents one or more physical buses and/or point-to-point connections that are connected by appropriate bridges, adapters, or controllers. Therefore, the bus 1016 can include a system bus, Peripheral Component

Interconnect (PCI) bus or PCI-Express bus, HyperTransport interface, Industry Standard Architecture (ISA) bus, Small Computer System Interface (SCSI) bus, Universal Serial Bus (USB), Inter-Integrated Circuit (I2C or I2C) bus, or Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) standard 1394 bus (also referred to as "Firewire").

[0082] The processing system 1000 may share a similar computer processor architecture as that of a desktop computer, tablet computer, personal digital assistant (PDA), mobile phone, game console, music player, wearable electronic device (e.g., a watch or fitness tracker), network-connected ("smart") device (e.g., a television or home assistant device), virtual/augmented reality systems (e.g., a head mounted display), or another electronic device capable of executing a set of instructions (sequential or otherwise) that specify action(s) to be taken by the processing system 1000.

[0083] While the main memory 1006, non-volatile memory 1010, and storage medium 1026 (also called a "machine-readable medium") are shown to be a single medium, the term "machine-readable medium" and "storage medium" should be taken to include a single medium or multiple media (e.g., a centralized or distributed database, and/or associated caches and servers) that store one or more sets of instructions 1028. The term "machine-readable medium" and "storage medium" shall also be taken to include any medium that is capable of storing, encoding, or carrying a set of instructions for execution by the processing system 1000. [0084] In general, the routines executed to implement the embodiments of the disclosure may be implemented as part of an operating system process or a dedicated application, component, program, object, module, or sequence of instructions (which are collectively referred to as "computer programs"). The computer programs typically comprise one or more instructions (e.g., instructions 1004, 1008, 1028) set at various times in various memory and storage devices in a computing device. When read and executed by the one or more processors 1002, the instruction(s) cause the processing system 1000 to perform operations to execute elements involving various aspects of the embodiments.

[0085] Moreover, while certain embodiments have been described in the context of fully functioning computing devices, those skilled in the art will appreciate that the various embodiments are capable of being distributed as a software program product in a variety of forms. The disclosure applies regardless of the particular type of machine or computer-readable media used to actually effect the distribution.

[0086] Further examples of machine-readable storage media, machine-readable media, or computer-readable media include recordable-type media, such as volatile and non-volatile memory devices 1010, floppy and other removable disks, hard disk drives, optical disks (e.g., Compact Disk Read-Oniy Memory (CD-ROMS) and Digital Versatile Disks (DVDs)), and transmission-type media, such as digital and analog communication links. [0087] The network adapter 1012 enables the processing system 1000 to mediate data in a network 1014 with an entity that is external to the processing system 1000 through any communication protocol supported by the processing system 1000 and the external entity. The network adapter 1012 can include a network adaptor card, a wireless network interface card, a router, an access point, a wireless router, a switch, a multilayer switch, a protocol converter, a gateway, a bridge, bridge router, a hub, a digital media receiver, a repeater, or any combination thereof.

[0088] The network adapter 1012 may include a firewall that governs and/or manages permission to access/proxy data in a computer network, and tracks varying levels of trust between different machines and/or applications. The firewall can be any number of modules having any combination of hardware and/or software components able to enforce a predetermined set of access rights between a particular set of machines and applications, machines and machines, and/or applications and applications (e.g., to regulate the flow of traffic and resource sharing between these entities). The firewall may additionally manage and/or have access to an access control list that details permissions including the access and operation rights of an object by an individual, a machine, and/or an application, and the circumstances under which the permission rights stand.

[0089] The technology described herein can be implemented by programmable circuitry (e.g., one or more microprocessors), software and/or firmware, special- purpose hardwired (i.e., non-programmable) circuitry, or a combination of such forms. Special-purpose circuitry can be in the form of one or more application- specific integrated circuits (ASICs), programmable logic devices (PLDs), field- programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), etc. Remarks

[0090] The foregoing description of various embodiments of the claimed subject matter has been provided for the purposes of illustration and description. It is not intended to be exhaustive or to limit the claimed subject matter to the precise forms disclosed. Many modifications and variations will be apparent to one skilled in the art. Embodiments were chosen and described in order to best describe the principles of the invention and its practical applications, thereby enabling those skilled in the relevant art to understand the claimed subject matter, the various embodiments, and the various modifications that are suited to the particular uses contemplated. [0091] Although the Detailed Description describes certain embodiments and the best mode contemplated, the technology can be practiced in many ways no matter how detailed the Detailed Description appears. Embodiments may vary considerably in their implementation details, while still being encompassed by the specification. Particular terminology used when describing certain features or aspects of various embodiments should not be taken to imply that the terminology is being redefined herein to be restricted to any specific characteristics, features, or aspects of the technology with which that terminology is associated. In general, the terms used in the following claims should not be construed to limit the technology to the specific embodiments disclosed in the specification, unless those terms are explicitly defined herein. Accordingly, the actual scope of the technology encompasses not only the disclosed embodiments, but also ail equivalent ways of practicing or implementing the embodiments,

[0092] The language used in the specification has been principally selected for readability and instructional purposes. It may not have been selected to delineate or circumscribe the subject matter. It is therefore intended that the scope of the technology be limited not by this Detailed Description, but rather by any claims that issue on an application based hereon. Accordingly, the disclosure of various embodiments is intended to be illustrative, but not limiting, of the scope of the technology as set forth in the following claims.