Wearable Sensor may Signal COVID-19 Infection

While the number of study participants was too small to extrapolate for the whole population, the authors said they were encouraged.

A recent paper, published in the online journal Scientific Reports, has studied the use of a smart ring in the identification and diagnosis of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The device generates a continuous reading of temperature data which may help to identify a COVID-19 infection even in cases where one is not suspected. The device could potentially be a better illness indicator than a thermometer and could lead to earlier isolation and testing which will aid in curbing the spread of COVID-19.

"Many factors impact body temperature. Single-point temperature measurement is not very meaningful,” Ashley Mason, senior author on the study said. “People go in and out of fever, and a temperature that is clearly elevated for one person may not be a major aberration for another person. Continual temperature information can better identify fever."

The device employed in the study was called the Oura Ring, which is a wearable sensor that pairs to an app on smartphones. The ring continuously measures many different variables like temperature, sleep, wakefulness and heart and respiratory rates. The prospective, observational study involved 3,400 participants who worked in the healthcare industry across the United States, as well as 65,000 others who were invited via the Oura app.

All of the participants in the preliminary study reported that they had been infected with COVID-19 previously and a record of their data was available from before their infection all the way through the end of the study.

The investigators were encouraged, despite the small number of participants, that the smart ring detected illness when symptoms were subtle or unnoticed. Data collected from 50 of the participants found that the device accurately identified higher temperatures in people with COVID-19. While the data on asymptomatic cases is not completely known, the data showed that 38 of the 50 participants had their fever identified when there were no reported symptoms.

"This raises the question of how many asymptomatic cases are truly asymptomatic and how many might just be unnoticed or unreported," Benjamin Smarr, an author on the study said. "By using wearable technology, we're able to query the body directly.”