Ventilators quickly proved to be in short supply at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. To help the response, Fitbit set out to create a “high-quality, easy-to-use, and low-cost automatic” ventilator called the “Fitbit Flow.”

The company wanted to leverage its “existing expertise in advanced sensor technology, robotics, signal processing, supply chain logistics, hardware design, and more.” Given the “urgent need” globally, Fitbit turned to making resuscitators for when patients are unable to breathe and get oxygen on their own.

Fitbit Flow builds on standard resuscitator bags, like those used by paramedics, with sophisticated instruments, sensors, and alarms that work together to support patient monitoring and automated compressions with controlled delivery of volume or pressure.

Shaped and sized like a toaster oven, the case is built from laser-cut aluminum for durability with a clear window to “observe the automated pumping from a distance.” It can be used on tabletops or with a stand that fits oxygen tanks.

A small screen, buttons, and knobs are below, while Fitbit is looking at integrating a “plug-and-play, high-resolution add-on display, for viewing the system’s status and pressure/flow waveforms.”

In terms of the design process, the Fitbit team worked remotely and consulted with several institutions:

During development and testing, Fitbit consulted with doctors and clinicians from MassGeneralBrigham Center for COVID Innovation, as well as Drs. David Sheridan, Laura Chess, and Matthew Hansen, all in emergency medicine caring for COVID-19 patients at Oregon Health & Science University. San Francisco-based ICU physician Dr. Chris Tyler also provided a lot of helpful feedback around what capabilities would be essential and how a device like this fits into the bigger picture of current medical care for COVID-19 patients at hospitals.

These Fitbit Flow ventilators have an Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA. It’s not clear how many have been produced, with Fitbit noting today that it “aims to leverage the company’s vast infrastructure and manufacturing capabilities… to produce large volumes of these emergency devices quickly.”

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Abner Li

Editor-in-chief. Interested in the minutiae of Google and Alphabet. Tips/talk: