One of the things that make COVID-19 deadly is the fact that it doesn’t always present symptoms to those who have it and are actively spreading it. But what if there was a way to detect the virus by simply wearing a smartwatch? This was the question posed by researchers of Mount Sinai, which found that your smartwatch may be able to help in the early detection of COVID-19 by monitoring changes in your heartbeat, allowing the detection of the virus up to a full week before one starts showing symptoms.
The “Warrior Watch” study followed a group of 297 health care workers from April 29 and September 29. Their participants wore Apple watches equipped with a special app that measured changes in their heart rate variability (HRV), and they found that the watch showed significant changes in HRV metrics up to seven days before individuals had a positive nasal swab confirming COVID-19 infection, according to study author Robert P. Hirten, MD.
Stanford University has also conducted a similar study using a variety of trackers from Garmin, Fitbit, Apple, and others found that 81 percent of patients testing positive for coronavirus had changes in their resting heart rate. This test was able to inform the participants that had the virus up to nine and half days prior to the onset of symptoms.
Taking it one step further is a company named NeuTigers, which has developed an artificial intelligence product called CovidDeep. This wearable showed a virus detection rate of 90%, which is statistically more accurate than typical temperature screenings. NeuTigers eventually plans to produce their own app that could work with Fitbit, Withings, Apple, Samsung, and other smartwatches.
The future of smartwatches as a health monitoring tool is looking bright especially now that it’s showing its potential as a COVID virus detection monitor. “Developing a way to identify people who might be sick even before they know they are infected would really be a breakthrough in the management of COVID-19,” Dr. Hirten said. “This technology allows us not only to track and predict health outcomes but also to intervene in a timely and remote manner, which is essential during a pandemic that requires people to stay apart.”