The United States Army is seeking to fast track development of wearable technology that could detect the coronavirus, as the number of infected military members continues to climb.
The Defense Department has set aside $25 million and hopes to award as many as 10 contracts following the Army’s request Monday for project proposals.
“There is a dire and urgent need for development of rapid, accurate wearable diagnostics to identify and isolate pre-symptomatic COVID-19 cases and track/prevent the spread of the virus,” the Army wrote in their proposal.
There are nearly 5,000 members of the U.S. armed forces with confirmed coronavirus cases as of May 5, according to Military.com.
Wearable devices the Army is seeking to fund should be designed to indicate elevated temperature, respiratory difficulty, antibodies against COVID-19 and molecular signs of COVID-19 exposure, according to its proposal.
“Physiologic surveillance for COVID-19 positive individuals that do not yet show clear medical symptoms is an ultimate goal,” the proposal states.
Research is already being done to find out if wearable technology can determine whether users have the virus.
A Duke University study called CovIdentify “will assess whether information about smartwatch wearers’ health, such as sleep schedules, oxygen levels, activity levels and heart rate, can detect early symptoms of COVID-19,” the university stated.
Researchers at University of California, San Francisco are exploring if smart rings can catch increases in temperature or heart rate that might signal the onset of the coronavirus, Stat News reported.
Similar studies are underway with researchers at Stanford Medicine, who have teamed up with Fitbit and Scripps.
“Smartwatches and other wearables make many, many measurements per day — at least 250,000, which is what makes them such powerful monitoring devices,” Dr. Michael Snyder at the Stanford School of Medicine said in a statement. “My lab wants to harness that data and see if we can identify who’s becoming ill as early as possible — potentially before they even know they’re sick.”
The Army has asked for technology currently “in development or commercially available,” rather than undeveloped tools. It will award contracts within four weeks from its May 13 deadline, it said in its proposal.