Smart Ring Can Detect COVID-19 in "Asymptomatic cases"

Dec 22, 2020

We all know about the COVID-19 "Asymptomatic carriers", researchers in California say some carriers actually have symptoms that are too subtle to notice. A new study finds wearable ring technology may hold the answer to detecting COVID-19 in people who may not know they’re sick.

A team from the University of California-San Francisco and San Diego say a smart ring which continually monitors temperature changes could help alert people they’re developing the signs of coronavirus infection. As in, not even having a proper infection of the virus. A study of 50 people who had previously been diagnosed with COVID-19 discovered that commercially available smart ring devices can accurately detect rising temperatures in patients with COVID symptoms.

Researchers say the smart ring spotted fever in 38 of the 50 participants when other symptoms either went unreported or unnoticed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say between 10 and 70 percent of COVID-19 cases could be asymptomatic.

ring covid-19

Does a fever mean there's an issue?

Weeks of temperature data from every participant was analyze. They say that just because one person has a higher temperature than normal doesn’t mean there’s necessarily a problem.

“Many factors impact body temperature,” says UCSF’s principal investigator and senior author Ashley Mason in a university release. “Single-point temperature measurement is not very meaningful. People go in and out of fever, and a temperature that is clearly elevated for one person may not be a major aberration for another person. Continual temperature information can better identify fever.”

Asymptomatic COVID-19 cases

Although researchers note this test uses a study group, so it isn't accurate for an entire population, they add detecting minor hints of infection early on could reveal that even asymptomatic patients still show signs of the virus. Yet, how is someone supposed to spread the virus, if they have little to no way of showing they're ill.

“This raises the question of how many asymptomatic cases are truly asymptomatic and how many might just be unnoticed or unreported,” says first author Benjamin Smarr of UC San Diego. They're able to see more from the body, to put more healthy people back into their homes for longer.

Participants in this study also reported having coronavirus however, researchers were also able to gather biomonitoring data from the weeks before they contracted COVID-19. While no-touch thermometers can quickly screen for fever by detecting infrared radiation, study authors say this technology is much more limited than a smart ring.

Other symptoms can be detected

Alongside the temperature monitoring, researchers say a smart ring also spots other signs that the wearer is getting sick. Increases and decreases in heart rate and increased respiration rates can all signal the onset of viruses like the flu or COVID-19.

Data from the study is now being used to create an algorithm which can spot the signs of an emerging infection. What about our privacy? Constantly being monitored is a little nightmarish. Almost dystopian.

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