There maybe a sort of euphoric feeling nestling in our minds now that vaccines are a reality. However, with this reality, still chaos surrounds. Who gets the vaccine? Which vaccine should I get? How do they work over time? What are the dangers? These are all legitimate questions, and with this longing uncertainty still sticking around, there is still a need for early detection solutions, until the day we are all vaccinated.

To this end, Israeli researchers from Tel Aviv University and Garmin partner to leverage smartwatch capabilities to provide a new method of early detection for the COVID-19 virus, and other diseases.

Watch, app, and some data… poof, early detection

The research based partnership is on a race against time to develop a method for early detection of infectious respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. As part of the project, researchers will gain access to Garmin smartwatch users’ data, such as sleep patterns, heart rate, and more; participants have all recovered from Coronavirus.

The research will focus on data provided from 1000 Garmin user participants that have recently recovered from a respiratory disease. The researchers note that “the study is non-invasive and does not put participants in any danger.”

Cool and everything, but how can you base early detection on sleep patterns?

Tel Aviv University's Head of Laboratory for Epidemic Modeling & Analysis (LEMA), Dr. Dan Yamin and Dr. Erez Shmueli, who heads the Big Data labs at the department of Industrial Engineering are both leading the research project. They explain in a conversation with Geektime that “ by analyzing past data of people infected with COVID-19 and monitoring their behavior over time (via watch and app) - we can investigate the actual impact of the virus on these individuals (heart rate, oxygen saturation). The fluctuations in condition can teach us a lot about the impacts, and by combining machine-learning tools integrated with medical records, reported symptoms, and more, we will create a model for early detection of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses.”

Yamin and Shumeli explain that the goal of the research is not to provide real-time alerts, but rather develop early detection models to improve diagnosis of respiratory infections in general, including Coronavirus, the flu, and other. Noting that the research is expected to take 2 years, the duo adds “result wise - the goal is identify what happens to the body during the life cycle of a disease, and adjust models for diagnostics and care. This is a tool that will help physicians run improved diagnostics and propel personalized medicine forward.”

They didn’t forget to recognize previous successful research: “There were a few that utilized wearable computing technologies, mostly small scale though,” adding that there was also research done that used medical history analysis, but what’s new about their research is the combination of all the different data points.

The collaboration research between Garmin and Tel Aviv University has received all necessary regulatory approvals, and both parties have agreed that the research will operate under strict data privacy policies.

Avishay Pariz, CEO at Ronlight Health, Garmin’s official repersentative in Israel, said regarding the research: “We are always happy to collaborate with Israeli organizations for the goal of promoting better quality of health. But this time the excitement is doubled because of the weight and importance of this research, as Israel, and the rest of the world combat the Coronavirus pandemic.”