The United States military has announced that it has been trialing a new system set up by the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) in partnership with Philips Healthcare and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) that uses biometric wearable tech to predict illness in soldiers up to 48 hours before they feel any symptoms.
As Defense One reports, the system — called Rapid Analysis of Threat Exposure, or RATE — consists of a pair of commercially available products: a smartwatch made by Garmin, and the biometric sensor-laden Oura smartring.
The two devices combine to detect subtle indicators such as changes in the wearer’s skin temperature and heart rate, and analyze that biometric data using an algorithm trained on Philips’ database of patient data to predict whether they will become sick from a number of diseases, including the COVID-19 virus.
“Originally, this wasn’t designed for COVID-19, but the algorithm was trained against some SARS variants, of which COVID-19 is one,” said DIU systems portfolio manager Dr. Christian Whitchurch. “We trained this algorithm on something like a quarter-million patient records.”
The trial of RATE began in June, when roughly 400 people were given the kits, and according to Dr. Whitchurch, within two weeks it had achieved its first COVID-19 detection.
Now, RATE is being expanded to 5,000 participants consisting of personnel from the Navy, Veteran Affairs, West Point cadets, and “other Department of Defense entities,” according to a press release.
This is the latest example of organizations of various types turning to biometric wearables as a way of predicting and tracking the spread of COVID-19.
The National Basketball Association made it optional for staff and players to wear the Oura ring in the ‘bubble’ environment it set up to resume the 2019/2020 season following several months of hiatus in the wake of the virus, and several professional golf tours also turned to a similar system using smart bands.
In both cases the use of the devices was optional, with the data collected anonymized for the security and privacy of the wearer.
The system can also be combined with other information such as location to provide a contact tracing system in order to allow healthcare providers to predict transmission rates.
RATE uses a scoring system to allow the individual wearer to keep track of their health, with no personal information shared aside from a unique identifier that is only visible to the wearer and cleared personnel, in keeping with Institutional Review Board protocol.
Source: Defense One
September 22, 2020 – by Tony Bitzionis