En Vogue: smart clothing and wearables to track COVID spread and progression

Wearables and smart clothing are having a ‘moment’ in the tracking of COVID symptoms and spread. After TTA noted Nanowear’s clinical trial with two major New York metro health systems last week, both POLITICO and Mobihealthnews catalogued additional trials and uses of innovative clothing and devices for detection: 

  • Apple watches and Fitbits
  • Oura rings (!) by the NBA to detect temperature and heart rate–at about $300 and up
  • Northwestern University and Shirley Ryan AbilityLab have developed a sensor that adheres in the visible dip at the base of the throat to monitor respiratory symptoms
  • Tufts University’s sweat sensor embedded in clothing, to analyze elements in perspiration such as electrolytes (sodium and ammonium ions), metabolites (lactate) and acidity (pH). NPJ Flexible Electronics
  • Paris-based Chronolife, which debuted the Nexkin smart T-shirt in December. It monitors heart rate, abdominal and thoracic breathing, body temperature, physical activity, and pulmonary impedance.

Part of the problem of wearable adoption is that without a specific ‘reason why’, wearables haven’t been all that compelling for the mainstream market beyond the trendy and pricey Apple Watch. Wearables have tried corporate wellness programs that almost give away the devices with the promise of lowering health costs long term. Venture funding (see the POLITICO chart) has been flowing into these companies for a decade. But in the eyes of many, wearables are a solution without a clear and compelling problem. COVID may resolve that.

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