FitBit CEO Claims Wearables Can Detect COVID-19 and More

By McKenzie Carpenter Monday, February 22, 2021

Nearly one year into the COVID-19 pandemic, there are still so many unknowns about the virus and its variants. Differentiating between a head cold and COVID-19 can be a challenge as some people experience very mild symptoms. That said, the CEO of FitBit, a consumer electronics business, is claiming the wearable device can detect an infection two to three days before symptoms may appear.

FitBit Charge device next to the FitBit app.

Can a FitBit Wearable Detect COVID-19?

FitBit, a consumer electronics company that focuses on personal wellness, has been conducting studies that support the notion that the wearable devices from the business can detect early signs of an infection.

In May of 2020, the wellness device company announced partnerships with Scripps Research Translational Institute and the Stanford Medicine Healthcare Innovation Lab to develop an algorithm to see if wearable devices from the company can detect infections like COVID-19 or the flu before symptoms begin. A few months later, in August 2020, the company reported that 1,000 cases of COVID-19 were reported out of 100,000 participants in the study. In addition, the business reported that 50% of those positive COVID-19 cases were detected one day before the participants reported any symptoms.

CEO of the business, James Park said to Axios regarding the algorithm and research, “It's pretty profound in the sense that if you could tell people one to two days before that they should start self-quarantining, that could actually have a pretty meaningful impact on the spread of the disease.”

Furthermore, infections are not the only reason the company conducted this research. The FitBit wearable device, the Apple Watch, the Samsung Galaxy smartwatch, among other wearable devices collect tons of data related to heart rates, oxygen levels, sleep, and activity levels. The wellness business claims that over time, the sensors in the device could potentially detect signs of depression. In addition, researchers around the country are looking at wearable devices and conducting similar research to that performed by FitBit.

Moreover, less than two weeks ago, the business published a press release stating NASA is now offering its employees a FitBit device as part of the Ready for Work pilot program at the aerospace company. The program is aimed at mitigating the risk of potential COVID-19 exposure among flight crews during the preflight period through a daily check-in tool on the wearable device provided by the wellness business.

Other COVID-19 Detection Methods

While more research is being conducted by the wellness company, and other technology companies and researchers nationwide study the impact a wearable device can have in early COVID-19 detection, the Miami Heat is using K-9 inspections before entering the basketball arena. They claim the dogs are trained to sniff out COVID-19 symptoms.

This method may be humorous to some and research still needs to continue for COVID-19 detection methods to decrease potential spread. Currently, the only way to identify a positive COVID-19 case is to get tested at a nearby location.

About the Author

Headshot for author McKenzie Carpenter

McKenzie Carpenter is a graduate of Central Michigan University with a B.A.A. in Integrative Public Relations and French. McKenzie has previously worked for small businesses and nonprofit organizations.

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