Quirks & Quarks

Your smartwatch might be able to detect early signs of COVID-19

Scientists can detect signs of possible infection up to 10 days before symptoms appear

Scientists can detect signs of possible infection up to 10 days before symptoms appear

Scientists can detect COVID-19 infections in smartwatch heart rate data up to ten days prior to symptom onset. (Rich Fury / Getty Images for Fitbit)

Scientists from Stanford University developed an algorithm using smart watch data that can detect early signs of a potential COVID-19 infection to warn you to get tested and stay home, so you don't unknowingly infect others.

They tested it on more than 5,000 people who wore smart watches every day, 32 of whom went on to develop COVID-19. The scientists found that in 26 of those cases, they could tell from the users' heart rate data when they were getting ill.  In some cases the detection was up to 10 days prior to symptom onset.

Michael Snyder, a professor of genetics at Stanford University School of Medicine, told Quirks & Quarks host Bob McDonald they are now launching a new study where they hope to enrol 10-million smart watch users in the United States and Canada. 

Those who'd like to participate can find full information at the Stanford Wearables Project

They're hoping enough smart watch users download their app, available for free from the App Store or Google Play, to take part in their study. 

They're currently only able to provide an early warning of potential infections to people with Fitbits, but Snyder said they hope enough other smartwatch users also sign up, that they can further refine their algorithms so they work for anyone, regardless of the type of wearable device they own.

Produced and written by Sonya Buyting


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