IoT Wearables for Preventing the Spread of COVID-19

June 25, 2020

There are still many questions surrounding COVID-19. Why do some people have worse symptoms than others? How can someone without symptoms be identified as having the disease? How can the spread be effectively prevented? IoT wearables may hold the answers to these questions.

Early Detection & Progression Tracking

A fertility bracelet is undergoing trials for early COVID-19 detection. The bracelet measures heart rate, breathing rate and temperature. Subtle changes in these measurements could be early indications of an illness. With asymptomatic individuals able to spread COVID-19, detecting infection and promptly testing for the disease could aid in reducing spread.

The study will involve 30,000 people from the general public and 10,000 high-risk individuals, such as health care workers. The devices will monitor and collect data on vital signs, and a mobile app will be used by participants to report symptoms. At the end of the project, antibody tests will be conducted, and researchers will determine if an algorithm can be built to detect COVID-19.

Fitbit has also launched a study for early COVID-19 detection but is taking a different approach by asking for volunteers who have been diagnosed with the disease. Oura is a smart ring conducting an early COVID-19 detection study. However, the project also holds potential for gathering data on long term effects of the disease.

Researchers at the University of South Florida are trialing wearables for individuals already infected by COVID-19. The goal of the project is to understand why some people with COVID-19 experience severe symptoms and others don’t. Wrist and chest sensors will monitor physiological responses in more than 100 patients in hopes of identifying patterns. These patterns could then be used to alert doctors to patients who are at high physiological risk for severe complications.

Proximity Tracking & Reducing Spread

To keep workers at a safe distance, wearables are becoming available for maintaining social distancing. The small electronic device can be clipped onto a shirt or badge or worn as a necklace and buzzes if the wearer gets too close to another device. These wearables will be useful for factory, warehouse and hospital workers. They also allow for contact tracking. If a worker is diagnosed with COVID-19, their device contains data on who they recently came in close contact with, which can be used to inform employee and company health measures.

Singapore plans to equip its 5.7 million residents with a wearable device for contact tracing. The devices can be worn around the wrist, on a lanyard or in a pocket or bag. The device tracks nearby devices and when someone is diagnosed with COVID-19, devices that came near that person will alert their wearers. The country previously sought to use a smartphone app for contact tracing but encountered issues when it was discovered phones would turn off Bluetooth when battery life became low. The new devices will have superior battery life and cost significantly less than smartphones.

As the pandemic continues, IoT wearables may play a vital role in health safety and monitoring.