Can Your Smartpones Actually Help in Early COVID-19 Detection?
Our smartphones have already played an important role in this virus pandemic. Whether in defining your location’s degree of contagion or providing data on your movements to help assess the threat of infection – smartphones do come to the rescue.
We’ve recently partnered with a leading hospital to investigate whether our smartphones can do more – like help detect early indications for COVID-19 that could aid in preventing mass infection. It’s not 100% tested, and it definitely can’t replace a standard lab test test, but with a pandemic where social distancing seems to be the only known means of prevention (for now) – this test may help prevent mass infection.
A little background:
The Sprint COVID-19 initiative, led by the Innovation Department at Assuta Hospital in Ashdod Israel working together with Rafael Advanced Technology, the Israeli military ground forces technology division and the
Weizmann Institute of Science, has decided to face the COVID-19 pandemic head on. This initiative is focused on one goal: A sprint to the finish line with different technological solutions likely to stop the pandemic in its tracks.
Among other activities, the team is working on developing a heuristic test to identify asymptomatic, pre-symptomatic and mild cases of the virus, which would otherwise go undetected. It seeks to find new innovative ways for simple testing that each and every one of us can administer on our own.
Recent studies conducted in China and Italy indicate that 40 to 60% of the COVID-19 carriers were asymptomatic. However, low levels of oxygen in their blood proved to be one indicator or the virus. Unaware that they were infected, these carriers were surely passing the virus along to others.
They could have received early indications by checking the levels of oxygen in their blood, which could have allowed them to isolate themselves until they were able to be formally tested.
Quoting the head of this research, Myriam Bocobza: “A large percentage of the Coronavirus infected population may suffer from silent hypoxemia, or hypoxemia without dyspnea. We can now estimate that 30 to 50% of the positive coronavirus carriers did not feel any symptoms, so they kept wandering around infecting more people. We found out that many
smartphones and smartwatch devices enable you to test your own blood oxygen levels”.
Identifying the right kind of devices
We discovered that smart devices carrying the SpO2 sensor are able to conduct the blood-oxygen test. These tend to be older smartphone models – I found a model like that hidden in my drawer and it definitely does the trick.
To offer any kind of medical solution, Sprint COVID-19 needed to know if it is feasible to have a large portion of the population independently checking their own blood-oxygen levels daily using their smartphones or smartwatches. The answer is yes, definitely. And here’s why:
Seventeen percent of the smartphone owners worldwide have devices that carry the SpO2 sensor, which can enable the test. This covers nearly 19% of the US population, 18% of the UK population and up to 12% of Italy’s population.
Remember there are many people, like myself, who own these older models and are just not using them anymore, so the numbers are probably even larger. As for the smartwatches and smartbands – there’s not enough openly available online data to assess the numbers on a global scale just yet.
The list will be made available very soon.