Wearable tech companies join the battle against COVID-19

Proof of Health

The current COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed the world’s social and economic landscape. Countries have shut down their schools and businesses, restricted travel and canceled entertainment and sporting events, urging the public to stay at home as much as possible.

While the tech world is coming up with ways to battle the pandemic, new medical devices offer several possible solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, a wearable device by Masimo, which was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2019 as a tool for remotely monitoring patients recovering from opioid overdoses, has now been re-engineered to help doctors manage patients suffering from the coronavirus. The Masimo SafetyNet is a wearable similar to a wristwatch, with a disposable fingertip attachment capable of continuously monitoring a patient’s pulse, breathing, and blood oxygen levels. If it detects shallow breathing or an unnaturally slow or accelerated pulse, it alerts caregivers and hospital staff.

Following the suit, Nemaura Medical announced its plans to repurpose and commercialize its non-invasive and flexible continuous glucose monitor sugarBEAT as a CTM, making use of its inbuilt temperature sensor to continuously track body temperature. sugarBEAT platform automatically sends data by low energy Bluetooth to a mobile phone app from which the alerts reach a family member or caregiver for remote tracking of body temperature.

Similarly, Google’s Verily is developing a small body-worn temperature patch that can transmit data to a smartphone application to provide timely notification of fever and support earlier diagnosis and treatment of a viral infection like the flu or coronavirus. Google believes that it could be especially useful in elderly populations, where viral infections have higher rates of morbidity and mortality.

Several diseases, including COVID-19, are characterized by an increase in body temperature. Therefore, temperature monitoring is vital as a means not only to detect such a condition but contain the spread through isolation. Measuring body temperature continuously also helps track the course of an illness, allowing physicians to analyze the effectiveness of treatments and proactively adapt to improve outcomes. Notably, body temperature can vary person-to-person, depending on age, level of physical activity, and time of measurement. Therefore, the ability to constantly track temperature over a period of time and measure the rate at which it is rising or falling, is a superior form of monitoring a person or patient than sporadic measurements taken using a thermometer, says Nemaura CEO Dr. Chowdhury.

Masimo uses its cloud-based patient management platform Masimo SafetyNet to monitor COVID-19 patients who are hospitalized or quarantined at home. The platform consists of a tetherless, wearable single-patient-use sensor to track the blood oxygen saturation and respiration rate of patients. With this wearable device, the healthcare staff can create temporary, pop-up respiratory monitoring units, required to meet the changing patient volumes and to track employees’ health in their homes in case they are exposed to COVID-19, the flu, or any other serious illness.

Proof of Health

Bluetooth location beacon startup Estimote created a new range of wearable devices called “Proof of Health” wearables, to trace the potential spread of the coronavirus from person-to-person at a workplace. The wearables, designed to help employers maintain a pulse on any possible transmission among their workforces, provide the ability to restrict any local spread before it is too late. The hardware includes passive GPS location tracking and proximity sensors powered by Bluetooth and ultra-wide-band radio connectivity, a rechargeable battery, and built-in LTE. It also consists of a manual control to change a wearer’s health status, recording states like certified health, symptomatic, and verified infected.

Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center (SPHCC) is using California-based connected health startup VivaLNK’s body temperature sensors, attached directly to the patient to provide constant, real-time monitoring of patients with COVID-19. The sensors report any changes in body temperature. Cassia Network’s gateways receive real-time patient data from the sensors and wirelessly transmit the data to a nurse’s station for continuous monitoring. The gateways allow up to 40 Bluetooth Low Energy devices to be paired and connected simultaneously. The SPHCC, along with several hospitals throughout China, is currently using Cassia’s gateways.

cosinuss, a tech company based in Munich, is proposing a medical home monitoring solution for low and medium risk COVID-19 patients, who are in home isolation. The system consists of an in-ear wearable sensor (cosinuss° C-med), a mobile device application (cosinuss° LabApp), and a server database (cosinuss° LabServer) for digitally evaluating the health status based on the continuous measurement of core body temperature, heart rate, blood oxygen saturation, and respiration rate. Each patient needs to wear a cosinuss° Two in-ear wearable sensor for a minimum of 4 hours a day. The measurements are sent via Bluetooth to the cosinuss° LabApp, installed on the patient’s smartphone.

Germany has the fourth highest COVID-19 cases behind the United States, Spain, and Italy. To fight the coronavirus, the country’s public health authority launched a smartwatch app in partnership with health tech startup Thryve to help monitor the spread and analyze the measures to contain the virus are working. The Corona-Datenspende (Corona Data Donation) app gathers vital signs from volunteers, wearing smartwatches or fitness trackers — including pulse, temperature, and sleep. The results are represented in an interactive online map for the health authorities and the general public to assess the prevalence of infections down to postcode level. The app is available for download in the Google Play Store and Apple App Store.

Meanwhile, the Ava Bracelet is currently looking to enter clinical trials in Europe as an early warning system for COVID-19 infections. The Bracelet has had success as a fertility tracking wearable, but it’s the sensors inside that could also make it a powerful weapon in the fight against coronavirus. It tracks skin temperature, as well as heart rate, breathing rate, and heart rate variability – making it unique among wearables to track infection.

Finnish startup Oura has handed 2,000 of its smart rings, which measure heart rate and body temperature, to front-line healthcare workers in San Francisco, and researchers at the University of California are studying whether the devices can reliably detect symptoms of COVID-19, such as fever. Meanwhile, a team at Central Queensland University Australia is testing whether a fitness wristband from Boston-based firm Whoop that tracks breathing rates can recognize the infection. The study is measuring respiratory patterns in volunteers that have self-diagnosed with COVID-19.