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Fitbit's in-app study will determine if wearables can detect COVID-19

It could also help spot other infections before symptoms appear.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
May 21, 2020
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Cherlynn Low/Engadget

Fitbit is venturing beyond its research partnerships to launch an infectious disease study of its own that’s very easy to join. The device maker has introduced a study inside its app that will help determine if smartwatches and fitness trackers can spot early signs of COVID-19, the flu and similar diseases without waiting for symptoms. If you’re at least 21 years old and live in the US or Canada, you can volunteer by filling out a questionnaire regarding your health (such as whether you’ve had COVID-19). Fitbit will combine that with activity data to see if there are any telltale clues and, ideally, build an algorithm that alerts people before they infect others.

The study is available in the app’s Discover tab under Assessments & Reports, and you can withdraw at any time.

As with studies from Scripps and Stanford, there’s no guarantee this will lead to a usable detection system. There’s still a lot humanity doesn’t know about COVID-19. If Fitbit succeeds in finding an algorithm, though, it could both improve understanding of the disease and help isolate infected people before they have a chance to spread the illness to others.

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