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Smartwatches can tell you're about to get sick days in advance

Wearables may actually be useful for something else.
Billy Steele
January 13, 2017
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If you're still on the fence about just how useful a smartwatch can be, a group of researchers at Stanford University have some news for you. The scientists discovered that using algorithms to monitor a combination of vital signs gathered by the Basis B1 and Basis Peak can determine if you're about to catch a cold, days before you actually get sick. Using stats like heart rate and skin temperature, researchers say the smartwatches can indicate the first signs of an impending illness.

During the course of their research, the team at Stanford gathered details from 40 volunteers who wore the devices for two years. The information gathered shows that people exhibited an unusually elevated pulse and warmer than average skin temperatures (at times) before any physical signs of a cold or infection. The tech could tell up to three days in advance of symptoms starting to present themselves.

In addition to the two Basis devices, the group used the Moves app, Scanadu health tracker and Masimo iSpO2 to double check pulse and skin temperature readings as well monitor as blood oxygen levels. The readings were compared to those gathered with a WA 6000 series vital signs monitor in the Stanford lab. In their findings that were published this week, researchers say that if your heart rate and skin temperature are elevated for two hours, there's a good chance you're getting sick.

The Stanford researchers are hoping to develop algorithms that will allow your smartwatch to send you a notification when you might be coming down with something. They warn that just because you know in advance that you're getting sick doesn't necessarily mean you can avoid it entirely. When it comes to wearable tech, there's also the issue of accuracy.

Unfortunately, it will be difficult to use the Basis Peak to test these findings. Intel discontinued and recalled the device following overheating issues back in August. It also shut down the accompanying services. Now that we know the wearable could have been used to alert users to potential illness, it's a shame Intel decided to kill it off like so other many malfunctioning devices.

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