How Fitbit devices can help detect the spread of Covid-19

(IANS) In a fight against novel coronavirus, the researchers have developed a free mobile app which will allow scientists to investigate the use of wearable devices and smartphones for digital detection of Covid-19.

The research team has created the ‘Mass Science’ app that allows Covid-Collab study participants to connect wearables, such as Fitbit devices, and share data including heart rate, activity and sleep.

Participants can also use the app to provide information on geographic location, mood, and mental health in addition to Covid-19 symptoms and a diagnosis if they have tested positive for the disease.

“With a lack of information on who is infected in the population, especially asymptomatic, we are investigating how wearable data can be used to detect Covid-19,” said study lead author Amos Folarin from the King’s College London in the UK.

“Having a cheap, continuous digital test for infection could be a game-changer,” Folarin added.

According to the study, with the help of the app, the researchers will analyse the data including heart rate and activity when a participant reports feeling ill or tests positive for Covid-19.

By looking for differences in the data during the time of reported illness compared with their normal healthy periods, they aim to develop a potential digital test for early warning signs of coronavirus.

If a Fitbit user was previously ill or diagnosed with Covid-19 in the past, they can use the study app to share their historical data covering this period of illness.

The more people the Covid-Collab study can recruit the better capability researchers will have to understand key scientific questions, the team said.

Early research shows that resting heart rate data and other key health indicators from wearables have the potential to identify flu-like illness before symptoms emerge.

Covid-Collab researchers will analyse heart rate, activity data and location data to look for signals of illness in participants who report in-app having tested positive for Covid-19 or experience known symptoms.

If a signal can be validated by the study, with further development this could form the basis of a continuous monitoring system that sends users alerts when they might be experiencing early symptoms, including elevated resting heart rate, of viruses such as SARS-CoV-2.

According to the team, this would be a valuable tool to help stem the spread of the virus.

“When you indicate you are experiencing symptoms in the app, we’ll be able to look at your data before, during and after this period and compare it to your healthy baseline data,” the study authors wrote.

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