A team of researchers from the University of California San Diego, UC San Francisco and MIT Lincoln Lab have discovered that temperature data collected by wearable devices worn on the finger can be reliably used to detect the onset of fevers, a leading symptom of both COVID-19 and the flu.
In a study published in the December 14 issue of the journal Scientific Reports online, the researchers say wearers can quarantine if they get a text early and the action could effectively stop the spread of the pandemic.
While the healthcare device is not yet registered by the Food Drug Administration registered, the ring is said to monitor a range of signals, including continuous temperature, heart rate, respiration rate and activity.
The researchers say initial analysis suggests that a destabilisation of temperature happens a couple of days before coronavirus symptoms manifest.
They say the smart ring can constantly track the wearer’s temperature and can detect COVID-19 before outward symptoms show.
Data collected from people wearing the ring accurately identified when a wearer became infected with the coronavirus, even in cases when no infection was suspected.
The smart ring detected subtle symptoms in more than three quarters of participants, who subsequently tested positive for COVID-19, the researchers claimed.
“The hope is that people infected with COVID will be able to prepare and isolate sooner, call their doctor sooner, notify any folks they’ve been in contact with sooner, and not spread the virus,” said principal investigator, Ashley Mason.
Finnish startup Oura donated 3,400 smart rings for the study, with the researchers focussing on temperature data from 50 of the participants who eventually tested positive.
The research is the first part in a broader observational study that will draw in biometric data from more than 65,000 wearers worldwide who volunteered to participate through the ring’s companion app.
Reports state that between 10 and 70 percent of people who catch COVID-19 are asymptomatic for the first few days after being infected, meaning they do not feel physically unwell.
“It is during this time that people are often most infectious, despite not showing any outward signs like a cough or fever.
“This has allowed the deadly virus to spread at a prolific rate, with more than 70 million confirmed cases around the world.
“By detecting these early symptoms before they manifest themselves in a more obvious manner, it could help stop the spread of the virus,” the researchers say.
“We’re seeing changes up to three days in advance before the onset of symptoms,” said Oura CFO Mikko Kärkkäinen at a media event in September hosted by Business Finland.
The researchers hope to develop a warning system that will trigger a request for a user to complete a self-collection COVID-19 test when early warning signs show.
“This isn’t just a science problem, it’s a social problem,” said Benjamin Smarr, a professor in the Department of Bioengineering and the Halicioglu Data Sciences Institute at UC San Diego.
“With wearable devices that can measure temperature, we can begin to envision a public COVID early alert system,” he added.
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