Could your Apple Watch detect coronavirus, using data like ECG and respiration rate? That’s a question a Stanford University study is aiming to answer.

If you own an Apple Watch or other wearable and fall into one of three categories, you can enroll in the health study …

Stanford is seeking participants for its Wearables Data Study.

We are trying to find out if information from wearable devices, like Fitbit and Apple Watch, can be used to track infectious diseases like COVID-19. We hope to be able to predict the onset even before any symptoms start.

We are currently looking for people who own a wearable device and:

  • Have had a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19, or
  • Have been exposed to somebody who has known or suspected COVID-19, or
  • Are at higher risk of exposure (like healthcare workers or grocery store workers).

In order to participate, you’ll need to agree to three things:

  1. Wear your device continuously
  2. Download an app
  3. Fill out a daily symptom survey (which takes 1-2 minutes)

You’ll also be asked to export data collected by the Watch, and (optionally but ideally) permit access to your electronic medical record.

The study will run for up to two years, but it’s hoped that the first phase will be complete in a matter of weeks.

Gizmodo has more details.

Once enough people have opted-in via Stanford’s site and their data’s been collected, the second phase involves building a personal dashboard that can tell people when they’re getting sick. And while the original Stanford study’s algorithm was developed using a Basis watch and a few other discontinued devices, this new study aims to be device-agnostic. Fitbits, Apple Watches, and Oura Rings are just some of the wearables included.

“We’re getting a tonne of people enrolling who have a smartwatch and have been ill,” Snyder says. “There’s lots of smartwatch wearers out there. There’s 30 million active users from Fitbit, millions from Apple Watch. We’re talking tens of millions of people, all with these smartwatches that could be health protectors for infectious diseases like covid-19.”

It almost sounds too good to be true, and truthfully, many obstacles stand in the way. Snyder told me they are working at “full blast” around the clock at Stanford, and he believes phase one of the study will be done in a matter of weeks. Still, in America, where many major wearables companies are based, said companies will have to win clearance from the US Food and Drug Administration before rolling out covid-19 predictor features, which is an entirely different process.

If you’d like to help Stanford find out whether the Apple Watch can detect coronavirus, you can apply here.

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Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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