A computer scientist and a neonatologist are working together to test a new tool that tracks vital signals in vulnerable newborns, with the hope the system will allow doctors to catch some problems before symptoms develop.

The system captures large amounts of data, such as heart rate and respiratory rate, and then uses algorithms to calculate the information clinicians need.

"We are really just at the cusp of a whole new wave in clinical research," says Carolyn McGregor, a University of Ontario Institute of Technology computer scientist, who is working with Sick Kids neonatologist Dr. Andrew James on the project.

"Ultimately, every child that comes into this world that is struggling and needs help has the right — not just the privilege, but has the right — for us to do everything they can and to use all these computing tools," says McGregor, whose first child died after a premature birth.

The device, the Artemis, is expected to begin clinical trials this fall at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children.