Home / Blog / Checking the pulse to reach the sky

Checking the pulse to reach the sky

Fitbit wearable can check the heart beat rate and the algorithm in the app can derive a number of data providing hints on your health and the probability of you being infected by Covid-19. Image credit: Fitbit

Fitbit has signed an agreement with NASA to provide 1,000 of its Fitbit Charge 4 wearables to NASA personnel, including its 150 astronauts. The wearables will be connected to the Work Daily Check-in platform were data analytics will evaluate the probability that the data provided by the wearables signify a Covid-19 infection. The analytics will take into account both the data generated by the wearable (heart beat -at rest and variability-, breathing rate), the history record of that person and the global analytics of groups of persons that operate in a team.

This is part of a more general NASA monitoring program to curb Covid-19 infection and to make sure that astronauts are fit for mission.

Per sé the data provided by a wearable are not significant of an infection, however when these data are accrued over a period of time and at frequent interval, data analytics can provide some meaningful hints on that person situation and in case of suspicious data a specific test can be performed.

The more data will be gathered the more accurate the predictions become.

What is true for NASA can be true, even truer, for the general population provided that a significant number of people are willing to be monitored. This clearly rises privacy issues and the reaction to these issues is very much subjective. Personally, I would have no problem in having a wearable checking my physiological data and sharing them with a service providing analytics and returning information on the probability that I need a further, specific check, nor I would have any problem in having those same data shared to contribute to global analytics.

This is where Personal Digital Twins -PDT- can play a role, by decoupling the privacy aspects and the societal benefits. My PDT could harvest my physiological data and share some aggregated values, derived from local analytics, embedded in my PDT, with a service that will perform further analytics taking into account more data streams and return information to my PDT for both providing more accurate awareness to me and for fine tuning the local analytics.

I am pretty sure that by the end of this decade personalised medicine will be a reality and it will take advantage of continuous monitoring through wearables and local analytics performed by PDTs.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the Industry Advisory Board within the Future Directions Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.