To prevent the spread of COVID-19 across its facilities, NASA distributes Fitbit devices to 1,000 of its employees, including 150 astronauts.
The wrist-worn devices can track several important health measurements, including body temperature. By logging all this data, the agency hopes to prevent outbreaks of COVID in some of the facilities, which extend across the country.
“There is evidence that resting heart rate data and other important health indicators from wearables have the potential to identify influenza-like illness such as COVID-19 before symptoms appear,” says a press release from Fitbit. “This is important because people can transmit the virus before they realize they have symptoms or when they have no symptoms at all.”
“Based on a user’s daily check-in, the solution will provide NASA staff with daily guidance to help them decide whether to go to work or stay at home,” the statement said.
NASA currently sees the project as a pilot and will evaluate the effects of the program before expanding it to more of its employees.
Although there is no peer-reviewed evidence that Fitbit devices are capable of detecting COVID early, the company is researching to investigate the issue.
The news comes after a study conducted by Mount Sinai found that the Apple Watch was effectively able to predict positive COVID-19 cases up to a week before a PCR-based test came back positive – so there is a precedent that portable devices can contribute to to detect the disease.