Smartwatches

Smartwatches turning out to be essential in identifying COVID symptoms

Can your smartwatch make an early detection about a possible Coronavirus or COVID infection? As we all know, smart wearables collect a lot of your health data every day. Just the way the heart-rate monitor in your smartwatches can alert you about possible warning signs of sleep apnea or atrial fibrillation, it can also smudge warning signs that might signal that your body is fighting a flu-like infection.

Fitness trackers becoming sickness trackers

Smartwatches and other wearables make several measurements per day — at least 250,000, which is what makes them such powerful monitoring devices.

The promising and logical progression of wearables in the past few years have highly blurred the margin between wellness tech and medical devices. Smartwatches can now practice electrocardiograms—an experiment or a test that can measure the electrical activity of your heartbeat, straight from the wrist. But wearables have mostly emphasized on things like reproductive health, sleep and heart disease. Detecting infectious diseases is now a newer territory where smartwatches are doing wonders.

Doesn’t it actually seem as a foreseen future where your smartwatch warns you before you get sick even possible? It might sound like science fiction, but there’s reason to believe wearables could be useful in detecting infections.

Research and Findings

The primary results and data from two academic studies on wearable devices prove to be a small step to combat coronavirus. Also, it proved to be a giant leap for wearable tech. Let’s have a look at them-

The research team at Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute in West Virginia reported that Oura ring data and an app (to evaluate cognition and other symptoms) could foreshow up to three days in advance when people will register cough, fever or shortness of breath. Also, it can predict the exact temperature, like a weather forecast for the body. This combination of the smart ring and app is called a kind of “digital PPE,” or personal protective equipment.

Besides, researchers at Stanford University studying changes in heart rate from Fitbits have also reported that they have been able to identify the coronavirus before or at the time of diagnosis in 11 of 14 confirmed patients they have examined. In this study, they witnessed one patient’s heart rate jump nine days before the person actually reported symptoms whereas in other cases, they only saw evidence of infection in the data when patients observed symptoms themselves.

As per the Stanford Medicine, wearable devices can measure skin temperature and heart rate, which usually rises when the body is struggling with an infection. Stanford’s researchers use the data to train a series of algorithms that can detect early symptoms of infectious diseases like COVID-19. These algorithms are smart enough to spot things that humans usually don’t notice about their own bodies. Some of them are- slightly elevated resting heart rate, subtle fluctuations in temperature, heart rate variability and sleep patterns. Such changes can allow the software to give early-warnings for coronavirus symptoms, days before people could even recognize that they have been infected by the contagious infection. This early warning can be beneficial in getting people to isolate themselves, in order to avoid the infection spread further.

From recreation to medicine

The latest research highlights how smartwatches – developed initially for recreation and fitness uses – may be adapted for vital medical research. Apple has started to study on how its smartwatch can detect heart problems, and Fitbit has been working with some 500 diversified projects for research on diabetes, cancer, respiratory and other health issues.

AI to make the task easy

With Artificial Intelligence and Machine learning coupled with a negative thermal coefficient (NTC) thermistors, tomorrow’s smartwatches could deliver continuous body temperature readings and alert you to flu-like fluctuations. Companies are coming up with smartwatches with installed smart thermometer data to visualize infections. Combined with the heart rate data and SpO2 readings and future body temperature sensors, it could give health providers invaluable data on a day to day basis for battling future pandemics.

Conclusion

As the world grapples with rising cases of COVID-19, smartwatches are finding ways to track early symptoms, minimise contact with infected patients, and ensure adherence with social distancing norms. Hence it can be said that from tracking activity to tracing virus, smartwatches could become our early detectors. To slow down the spread, we need devices that help us to quickly and precisely identify the possible infected people. Also, it can give critical information of disease efficiently. So now if we talk about the actual necessity of smart watches which is probably is very high. This would be one of the essential accessories one will carry in a few days. As we don’t have many options to get tested for COVID-19 infection, people are more worried. Fitness Smart Watches will not only help to know the people for COVID symptoms but also help them to maintain their heart rate, BP, calories, footsteps, etc which can help one to have a record of the fitness and health level.

Rohit Nandwani, COO, Hammer Audio

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