HomeDAS & In Building WirelessWearable devices may soon be able to detect COVID-19

Wearable devices may soon be able to detect COVID-19

Commercial real estate owners and businesses are taking crucial measures to ensure their properties are safe for tenants, visitors and customers when they return following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Technology companies and medical researchers can also be added to those who are doing what they can to be proactive about COVID-19 detection and prevention, according to The Wall Street Journal. They are working to see if wearable devices like Fitbits or the Apple Watch can detect COVID-19, the flu or other illnesses. The first step has been to take wearable sensor data from healthy people and people who test positive for COVID-19 and look for patterns. The tech companies could then create AI that could alert users when their data shows trouble signs.
Fitbit’s COVID-19 study has started to show changes in key metrics like heart rate and respiration days before Coronavirus symptoms, according to reports. Fitbit is creating a system where flagged users could be instructed to quarantine and confirm the analysis with a formal test if they show COVID symptoms.

“If you can quarantine one to three days before your symptoms start, it could have a really meaningful impact on the course of the disease,” Fitbit Chief Executive James Park told The Wall Street Journal. The company’s system could have different colored warning levels, but might need regulatory approval before it’s part of the Fitbit app.

COVID-detecting wearables sound promising, but tech companies and medical researchers are still in the early stages of this solution. It could work, but any physiological data has to be further researched and at-home testing needs to be made readily available.

“In the months ahead people will have at their home a testing kit that will give us an answer in 15 minutes, and hopefully people will be using wearables,” Scripps Research Executive Vice President and cardiologist Dr. Eric Topol told The Wall Street Journal. “You wouldn’t do the test unless your sensors were coming together to tell you something is going on.”

How COVID could be tracked through wearables

Core temperature, heat rate and blood oxygen levels are three potential ways to check for COVID-19 with a wearable device. The Oura ring is one of the few wearable devices that currently offer temperature tracking, according to The Wall Street Journal. Since the Oura rests on the finger and not on the body, it cannot record core body temperature, however. Instead it takes readings for several weeks to establish a baseline and reports significant fluctuations.

The Oura ring, Fitbit, AppleWatch and Garmin Vivosmart are among the devices that can monitor users’ heart rate, although an elevated heart rate could be result of many different factors, not just COVID-19. Tracking heart rate along with blood oxygen levels could be a better way to check for Coronavirus symptoms. Oxygen levels in the low 90 percent rage or the 80’s can be a COVID-19 indicator. Oximeters can be clipped on a user’s finger to measure their blood oxygen, but a lot of wearable devices have them built in these days. The aforementioned Garmin Vivosmart 4 can take blood oxygen levels while the user is sleeping, or the user can check their levels manually. Topol told The Wall Street Journal he expects more wearable devices to have blood oxygen monitoring capabilities this year. Fitbit currently has a sensor on some of its devices, but it doesn’t offer a full reading. Meanwhile, the next Apple Watch that’s expected to launch in the fall may measure blood oxygen levels, too.

Connectivity will be critical for wearable functionality

If people plan to return to work in a physical office and are relying on their wearable device to detect COVID-19 symptoms, it’s important that CRE owners have a reliable in-building wireless network for these devices to operate on. It’s one thing for tenants to count on a wireless network so they can do their job efficiently—it’s a completely different matter when connectivity strength factors into someone’s health. Much like with public safety systems, COVID-detecting wearable devices need the most reliable wireless networks to work properly. It’s no longer nice to have great connectivity- it’s a MUST have.

Joe Dyton can be reached at joed@fifthgenmedia.com.

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