With high transmissibility and no vaccine available to the public yet, COVID-19 has pushed medical technology to its limit. Thankfully, technology is gaining ground as scientists utilize new developments to combat, detect, and even prevent the new pandemic.
Wearable Symptom Monitoring
Traditional screening for COVID-19 typically includes questions about symptoms, travel history, and vitals. But what if that data was already traced and your technology could alert you to an onset before a doctor or any noticeable symptom could? Wearables, such as smartwatches, were already in high demand this year as 1 in 5 Americans own at least one type of this technology. Now, as individuals use these personal wearables to monitor symptoms such as temperature and heart rate, tech companies have realized and met the demands for a new way of living.
The Oura Ring, a ring worn that delivers health insights, is now partnering with researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) to determine if it is possible to detect the onset of COVID-19 before an individual starts showing symptoms. As current users and medical practitioners wear the rings, data is collected regarding what (formerly) undetectable symptoms, such as heart rate, temperature, and respiration, may arise before someone even realizes they may have COVID-19.
The early identification of pre-symptomatic infections would be valuable to avoid transmission, as people may be even more infectious during this period.
Screening for Infection
It’s commonplace in many large cities to have your temperature taken before dining or entering a public space. With non-touch forehead thermometers, individuals with a fever are prohibited from entering populated spaces. Now, large groups of people can be tested at once with technology such as CoTest, a new pooled screening technology for COVID-19. This technology can be used in any location, to screen up to 40 people at once for the virus, with results available in 30 minutes.
Passive Security Scan has an elevated body temperature station that measures a person’s temperature as they walk past the device. The device uses facial recognition to determine when a person walks past, then focuses a temperature sensor on the corner of the eye, where it reads body temperature instantly.
Though individual, significant contract tracing technology is not yet widespread across the U.S., other countries are utilizing contact tracing technology to control the spread. Singapore has turned to wearable devices called TraceTogether Tokens to inform users when they’ve been near a positive COVID-19 patient. Individuals keep the token on their person while outside the home, exchanging Bluetooth signals with other TraceTogether Tokens or phones running the TraceTogether app nearby. Users are then contacted by the Singapore Government’s contact tracing team if they have been in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 patient.
Though medical surveillance and contract tracing is widely disputed in privacy concerns, many countries continue to utilize it to slow the spread.
Now, wearable devices are helping people meet Covid-19 social distancing guidelines while working in the same space. The SafeSpace device, which comes in a watch or tag form, will issue real-time audible, visual, and vibrating alerts if it detects another user within 6.5ft, slightly over the 6ft social distancing guideline. This allows employees to maintain a safe social distance from each other while they work.
Amazon warehouses, which require many people in the same building, are also monitoring employee’s social distancing efforts with new social distancing software. This camera technology alerts employees if they are too close to each other, and will alert supervisors if the same employee violates the rule several times.
COVID-19 has expanded the digital landscape’s adaption of technology in the consumer healthcare space. Every week, more and more useful apps, software, and devices are announced that continue to improve the way the world handles the pandemic.