Can your wearable device be a COVID tracker?

Posted on July 6, 2020


(Last Updated On: July 6, 2020)

This is rather clever:

Germany’s heart rate and step count data aggregator to track COVID-19

The idea is millions of people have a smart watch or Fitbit on them, which tracks their heart rate and step count.

Symptoms of having the virus, or something flu like, are an increased heart rate and decreased step count i.e. you get less physically active yet your heart starts pumping more.

By tracking this, society can get a better feel for the spread of the virus (and the flu, something that is likely going to be important later this year), especially considering this data can be uploaded in the background. We don’t have to rely as much on a person to think “hm, I haven’t felt good the last few days” then wait for them to assess what they do next, then wait to see what their test result is. The data of the last few days has already been uploaded. And if a cluster of less steps but greater heart rate is going on in, a (competent, engaged) government entity, hospital system, or even a company for that matter, could get a jump on a potential outbreak. You could shut something down while waiting for tests to come back, rather than shut something down after tests have come back.

Of course, individually, you might be able to catch yourself sooner too. You might notice your steps have been down while your heart rate has been up the last couple days, then think “hm, now that I think about it, I haven’t really felt that great either. I thought it might have just been not sleeping well, but…” leading you to isolate and get tested sooner than you otherwise would.

-> There is some risk for psychosomatic issues here, which wearables are notorious for.

I can’t speak to the validity of this, but first, it’s refreshing to see somebody on the non-treatment side of this pandemic actually use some neurons. Where maybe we can use all this tech we’ve created the last hundred years. Second, in a country that’s decided it wanted to tell Icarus, “hold my beer,” for those trying to be proactive in a reactive climate -for perspective, Germany started doing this on a mass scale months ago-

Note the graph is logarithmic. The United States is ~150 while Germany is at ~5.

for those in areas where testing has become crimped again, where hospitals are already out of capacity -four hospitals in a county neighboring me are out of ICU beds; Houston has been transferring adult patients to pediatric hospitals- it might be something to consider.

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