Wearable tech offers promise of early COVID-19 detection


The U.S. military is testing wearable technology that could provide early detection of COVID-19. A watch and a ring can detect biometric indicators such as slight changes in skin temperature, the U.S. Department of Defense said in a news release. Military leaders hope the technology, powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning, can ensure military readiness.

The Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) and Defense Innovation Unit are testing the Rapid Analysis of Threat Exposure, or RATE, technology, which consists of noninvasive wearable devices that provide warning of infection up to 48 hours before a person becomes symptomatic, said Ed Argenta, DTRA science and technology manager.

Like a check-engine warning for drivers, the system is designed to alert Soldiers when they need to pursue diagnostic testing. RATE uses off-the-shelf wearables to measure key biomarkers and processes the data in the cloud so users can see their hourly RATE score on a secure website.

Researchers discovered that exposure to infectious agents causes subtle changes in physiology before symptoms surface. Identifying these changes early is critical to containing the spread of the disease by asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic individuals, Argenta said. It could also accelerate preventive measures such as quarantine.