U.S. Military Funding Wearable Covid-19 Detector for Use by Service Members

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2Q 2020 | IN-5829

Wearables are being increasingly utilized to help track the progression of COVID-19 and monitor the vitals of patients with the disease, with many companies utilizing consumer and enterprise devices that had already been deployed. On top of this, there is also a call to develop new wearable devices, designed specifically for COVID-19 tracking and monitoring functions, rather than repurposing current devices for the task. In particular, the U.S. Military is looking for a new wearable device that will be able to inform service members as early as possible if they have contracted COVID-19. As of May 5, 2020, 5,000 have already been infected.

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Wearables and COVID-19

NEWS


Wearables are being increasingly utilized to help track the progression of COVID-19 and monitor the vitals of patients with the disease, with many companies utilizing consumer and enterprise devices that had already been deployed. On top of this, there is also a call to develop new wearable devices, designed specifically for COVID-19 tracking and monitoring functions, rather than repurposing current devices for the task. In particular, the U.S. Military is looking for a new wearable device that will be able to inform service members as early as possible if they have contracted COVID-19. As of May 5, 2020, 5,000 have already been infected.

U.S. Military COVID-19 Wearable

IMPACT


The U.S. Military is offering a US$25 million grant to the company that can come up with a proposal for a new, unobtrusive, Fitbit-style Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved wearable device that can detect whether or not the wearer has been infected with COVID-19 as early as possible. It is not yet clear what connectivity the wearable will feature, but it is likely that cellular connectivity will be of use to such a device as it will help to ensure that the required notifications are immediately sent to the correct personnel. Such a device will be able to check the users’ vital signs for symptoms, detect the presence of COVID-19 antibodies, and detect the molecular biomarkers suggestive of COVID-19, ensuring that the spread of the virus can be prevented. The grant will be used to further develop a wearable, which should also be designed to be worn throughout the day.

The Medical Technology Enterprise Consortium (MTEC), in cooperation with the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command (USAMRDC) and other Department of Defense (DoD) agencies in the biomedical sciences, is overseeing the project. The MTEC has released a Request for Proposal (RfP) for the wearable and is accepting proposals from the industry, with proposals due by June 1, 2020 and usable devices expected to be delivered nine months later.

Some of the symptoms that the wearable should be able to detect include elevated temperature, fever, respiratory difficulty, and a cough. It is hoped that the device, which theoretically would be of use to anyone, keeps U.S. Military personnel safe and healthy, acting as a physiological surveillance, alerting the wearer or their superior (i.e., non-medical personnel) to the signs of an infection, with all data being secured per Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act regulations. This would ensure that those infected get necessary treatment and can isolate themselves, adding the benefit of potentially preventing further spread of the disease and providing effective contact tracing.

The Future for COVID-19 Wearables

RECOMMENDATIONS


It is clear that there is an urgent requirement for technologies that will aid with the tracking and monitoring of COVID-19. In the ABI Insight Wearables on the Frontline: Helping the Fight against COVID-19 (IN-5799), ABI Research outlined a number of wearable deployments and initiatives aiding the fight against COVID-19, tracking its progress and monitoring the vitals of those who have been infected. Along with this U.S. Military initiative, the U.S. Army is concentrating its own efforts on funding a study by science and research firm Elysian Labs to see if Polar wearables can determine if someone is infected with COVID-19 before any symptoms are shown. The study is to include 50 Army National Guard personnel, with plans to expand it to 5,000 in future months. The wearables will measure daily biometrics, including heart rate, heart rate variability, autonomic nervous system and recovery, sleep, and more, to help detect the early stages of COVID-19.

While the focus is currently on tracking the progress of COVID-19 and monitoring patients, these wearable devices will continue to have use once the pandemic is over. This is made clear with the U.S. Military looking for a COVID-19 detecting wearable within the next nine months, demonstrating that there is a long-term push to continue to use these devices in the future, not just immediately. The new devices being developed, as well as those currently being leveraged, will likely be utilized to help track the spread of and monitor patients with other contagious diseases, although it is currently unknown what exact diseases this will include, while still also checking for COVID-19. This will help to ensure that the spread of contagious diseases is reduced as much as possible and that potential sufferers are treated and isolated quickly and efficiently if required.

Different wearables can be utilized for these COVID-19, and other disease, tracking and monitoring purposes. In particular, healthcare devices, smartwatches, smart clothing, and sports, fitness, and wellness trackers are being used to track the progression of and monitor patients with the disease. ABI Research expects these wearables to see shipments rise from nearly 225 million in 2020 to 448 million in 2025, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of nearly 15%, demonstrating the continued strong demand and product development for these wearable device types owing much to the increasing number of use cases and improved features being packed into them, notably the addition of such medical trackers instigated by the COVID-19 outbreak..

 

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