News — 01 November 2017
A smartwatch that warns of illness

A smartwatch can give you the weather, the latest news and control of your daily schedule – and soon it may also be able tell you whether you are about to get sick. By tracking your vital signs such as heart beat and skin temperature, these devices can warn us when we are run down and susceptible to illness. Experiments at Stanford University (US) lasted throughout a two year period, during which 40 volunteers wore devices that continuously monitored their skin temperature, pulse and other vital signs. Unusual heart rates and higher skin temperature were detected up to three days before the volunteers had symptoms of a cold or other infection. The lead researcher explained: “We think that if your heart rate and skin temperature are elevated for about 2 hours, there’s a strong chance you are getting sick.”

In one of the participants the device detected that his heart was beating faster than normal, his skin temperature had risen, and the level of oxygen in his blood had dropped. This led to an early diagnosis of Lyme Disease which was quickly treated, and he was back to normal within a few days. The researchers are working to make this available on normal smartwatches, so that they can notify wearers when they might be getting ill. The head of the project added: “It’s really exciting to consider how much earlier we could intervene to prevent somebody becoming seriously ill.”

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