ring and watch wearables to detect infection (Philips)

Wearables, AI deliver ‘left-of-cough’ COVID awareness

The Defense Department is developing wearable devices that can capture vital signs to support early detection of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2, which causes the COVID-19 coronavirus disease.

Rapid Analysis of Threat Exposure (RATE) is being developed by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) and Defense Innovation Unit (DIU). It alerts wearers to the virus up to 48 hours before they become symptomatic, allowing them to quarantine, get tested and seek treatment without spreading the disease.

RATE uses commercial-of-the-shelf rings or watches to monitor subtle changes in 165 different biomarkers that could indicate the onset of an infection. That data is then analyzed in the cloud, and users can track their hourly RATE score through a secure website, DIU Human Systems Director Dr. Christian Whitchurch said.

“RATE would allow us to non-invasively monitor a service member’s health and provide early alerts to potential infection that will help us to ensure troop readiness, better support their health and protect against the threat of further spread of the disease,” DTRA Science and Technology Manager Edward Argenta said in a statement. “Unlike other more narrow approaches, this solution is designed to recognize a wide variety of infections and can help identify future novel threats.”

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are key to increasing RATE’s ability to detect infection. The system’s algorithm was trained on nearly 300,000 participants – some sick with hospital acquired illnesses -- to correlate common attributes, such as temperature, pulse oximeter and cardiac readings, with known infections. 

''As we continue to get new data from monitored cases of COVID-19, we will be able to refine the RATE-COVID algorithm in the near future,” said Dr. Joe Frassica, the chief medical officer and head of Philips Research North America, the company partnering with DTRA and DIU. “We hope that this will not only allow us to protect people from contracting the disease, but to also intervene early and treat those who are infected.''

The RATE-COVID system has been designed to eventually work with all wearables and on bring-your-own-devices in the future, Philips officials said.

“By combining commercial technology, a rich data source and simple to use wearables, we are effectively providing a check-engine light on the military service member and getting that alert before they’re broken down with a disease. In military speak, we’re targeting left-of-cough awareness,” Whitchurch said.

Work on RATE began in March 2018, and a prototype was used to test for SARS and pneumonia. In early 2020, the effort quickly pivoted to identifying COVID-19, with the CARES Act providing additional funding to refine the technology.

Personnel with the Navy, Office of the Secretary of Defense and DTRA and DIU began receiving RATE devices in June. U.S. Northern Command is getting RATE devices this month, and the U.S. Military Academy is slated to receive theirs next month. In the coming weeks, the Defense Department will rollout RATE devices to nearly 5,000 people.

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