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Wearable Tech Helps Detect COVID Symptoms, Tracks Long-Term Effects


According to a Gallup poll, one in five Americans owns a wearable fitness tracker. For many people, fitness trackers offer a convenient “set it and forget it” feature that tracks a user’s heart rate and physical activity automatically, without any need for the wearer’s intervention.

Now, research suggests that these wearable fitness trackers can help us learn more about COVID-19 and even help detect COVID-19 without a test. With the data reported by the fitness tracker, researchers were able to establish a baseline for each individual’s resting heartrate, sleep, and physical activity and detect subtle changes in those factors. The results showed that individual changes in physiological measures captured by most smartwatches and activity trackers were able to improve the distinction between symptomatic individuals and asymptomatic individuals, with and without an official COVID test. In addition, researchers were able to track individuals post-infection by collecting data on how COVID affects the body in the long-term and which symptoms linger even after the infection has passed.

Standards Support Wearable Technology

The study was able to measure the sleep activity of participants and found that COVID-infected individuals had their sleep more negatively impacted than those who were not infected. Standards supports sleep monitoring, including CTA/NSF 2052.1-2016 (ANSI), Definitions And Characteristics For Wearable Sleep Monitors, which defines terms used to describe sleep and indicates, where appropriate, the functionality necessary in a consumer sleep measuring device to measure those characteristics. This standard also provides definitions of sleep features terminology recommended for wearable sleep monitoring consumer products. ANSI/CTA/NSF-2052.2-2017, Methodology Of Measurements For Features In Sleep Tracking Consumer Technology Devices And Applications, is an American National Standard (ANS) that defines the methodology for measuring elemental parameters used in consumer technology devices and applications designed to evaluate sleep. The Consumer Technology Association's (CTA) R6.4 Health & Fitness Technology Subcommittee developed both standards.

The researchers also found that sleep and physical activity were closely correlated in those who had been infected. The poorer the sleep quality, the less physical activity a user engaged in. CTA 2056-2016 (ANSI), Physical Activity Monitoring For Fitness Wearables: Step Counting, creates definitions and performance criteria for measuring step counting on consumer wearable or app-based physical activity monitoring devices. This standard was developed by the Consumer Technology Association Health and Fitness Technology Subcommittee.

With the increasing popularity of wearable fitness devices as well as the practical applications for them, it’s important to ensure that consumers feel safe wearing using these devices. ASTM F3463-20, Standard Guide For Ensuring The Safety Of Connected Consumer Products, provides guidance for connected consumer products as it relates to physical product safety hazards created by virtue of their connectivity. This standard applies to connected products that need testing and evaluation to prevent cybersecurity vulnerabilities and weaknesses that could compromise the safety-related performance of the product, create a physical safety hazard in the product or its operation, or result in a noncompliance to the underlying end product safety standard. ASTM International, an ANSI audited designator, developed this standard.

As we continue to learn more about COVID-19, all data will be vital to saving lives. Wearable technology shows promise in helping researchers collect and monitor health data in a non-invasive way that can advance medical research. Wherever wearable technology takes us next, standards will always be there to help support the path forward.

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