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Wrist bands accounted for 30% of the market as recent launches from Xiaomi, Huawei, and Fitbit continued to drive the category forward.
Wrist bands accounted for 30% of the market as recent launches from Xiaomi, Huawei, and Fitbit continued to drive the category forward.

How wearables can assist in curbing spread of covid-19

  • Wearable devices can measure heart rate and skin temperature, which are known to go up when the body is fighting an infection
  • Stanford Medicine researchers plan to use the data to train a series of algorithms which can detect early symptoms of infections

NEW DELHI: As the world grapples with growing cases of covid-19, medical researchers and wearable companies are teaming up to pool their resources to find ways to detect early symptoms, minimise contact with infected patients and ensure compliance with social distancing norms.

A case in point is the newly formed consortium by Google-owned wearable company Fitbit, Scripps Research and Stanford Medicine that strives to utilise the data gathered through Fitibit's various wearables to detect and curb growth of covid-19.

According to Stanford Medicine, wearable devices can measure heart rate and skin temperature, which are known to go up when the body is fighting an infection.

Researchers at Stanford Medicine plan to use the data to train a series of algorithms which can detect early symptoms of infectious diseases like covid-19.

"Smartwatches and other wearables make many, many measurements per day, at least 250,000, which is what makes them such powerful monitoring devices. We want to harness that data and see if we can identify who is becoming ill, potentially before they even know they’re sick," Michael Snyder, professor and chair of genetics at the Stanford School of Medicine said in a press statement.

Research in the past has shown that data from wearables can be used to detect early signs of infections.

Stanford Medicine has worked on a similar algorithm before in collaboration with researchers from the Center for RNA Science and Therapeutics at Case Western Reserve University in 2017. The previous algorithm showed that an infection can be detected using data such as change in heart rate from a smartwatch. Specific patterns of heart rate variation can indicate signs of an illness even when a person is asymptomatic.

According to recent estimates of Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four people infected with covid-19 don't show any symptoms and lead a healthy life but can still transmit it to people in their vicinity.

Fitbit users can find more about the participation process for the Stanford Medicine study in the new covid-19 Resource tab in Fitbit mobile app.

Further, Central Queensland University Australia has partnered with Cleveland Clinic to leverage data collected by Whoop's wrist worn devices. researchers will study changes in the respiratory behaviour of over hundred volunteers who were infected by covid-19 using the readings from Whoop's 3.0 wearables.

On a similar note, but this time to protect caregivers, Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center is turning to medically approved wearables with in-built temperature sensors to get regular temperature readings of covid-19 patients. The captured data is regularly transmitted to the nurse's station enabling continuous yet remote monitoring.

Developed by California-based connected health startup VivaLnk, the wearables are helping caregivers keep track of any changes in patients' temperature without exposing themselves frequently to the virus.

One of the thumb rules to avoid covid-19 infection is maintaining a physical distance of 1 metre from others. While most businesses are shut during lockdown, people working in essential services are still at risk. To help them keep a distance from others, especially within a warehouse, job site or hospital, Vancouver Canada based Proxxi Technologies has launched a wrist-worn wearable called Halo, which can send a vibration based notification to the users of they come within a range of 6 feet of another person who is also wearing the band.

Halo relies on low-power Bluetooth to communicate with other similar devices. It also keeps a data log to allow users to see who they have been in contact with. This can come in handy for contact tracing within a premise.

Wearables are immensely popular across all age groups. According to a February report by IDC, global wearables market grew by 94.6% in Q3 2019. Wrist worn wearables that can capture health related information accounted for almost 50% of it.

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