Smartwatches can help detect COVID-19 before you show symptoms

Smartwatches can help determine whether you have been infected by the coronavirus before you even start showing symptoms.

This is according to a report by CBS News which cited studies from Mount Sinai Health System in New York and Stanford University in California.

Devices that can help to spot signs of coronavirus infection include Apple Watch, Garmin, and Fitbit wearables, the report stated.

Mount Sinai researchers said that the Apple Watch can detect subtle heartbeat changes, which could be an early sign of COVID-19. This is detectable up to seven days before users begin to show symptoms.

This study measures heart rate variability, which changes as inflammation develops in the body – one of the key markers of the coronavirus.

Another study from Stanford University measured data from a variety of smartwatch models and found that 81% of COVID-19-positive people experienced changes in their resting heart rate well before the development of symptoms.

The study said that an extremely elevated heart rate was measured up to 9 days before symptoms developed and could be used to predict symptom onset.

Stanford University Professor Michael Snyder stressed the value of spotting these warning signs early, as they could help people stay home and isolate in case they are infectious.

Snyder also said that the data collected from smartwatch devices can also help to address the once-off nature of COVID-19 testing.

“The problem is you can’t do it on people all the time, whereas these devices measure you 24/7,” he said.

“The smartwatch gives you back the data right away, in real-time, whereas if you’re lucky you’ll get your test back in a few days.”

According to the report, smartwatch manufacturers are looking at different ways the health data they collect can be used to combat the virus.

Contact tracing

Another useful technology for combatting the spread of COVID-19 is contact tracing – functionality available on Android and iPhone devices which allows users to warn others they have been in contact with if they test positive for the virus.

In South Africa, this is facilitated through the government’s COVID-19 Alert SA application, which anonymises user data and only shares encrypted tokens with other users nearby.

The app uses Bluetooth, and not location tracking, to exchange encrypted codes with other app users that determines whether they were in contact with each other.

The exchange of codes happens when their smartphones are within two metres of each other for more than 15 minutes, and these codes are stored for two weeks.

When an app user tests positive for COVID-19, they can report this information on the app anonymously.

Their device then uploads all of the random codes that it has on record for the past two weeks to the exposure notification server, which notifies other uses accordingly.

Now read: The cheapest Windows 10 laptops you can buy in South Africa

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Smartwatches can help detect COVID-19 before you show symptoms