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The group behind the Bluetooth standard wants to add COVID-19 exposure detection to wearable devices


In an announcement back in August, the Bluetooth SIG (Special Interest Group) said that it is working with over 130 member companies to add the potentially lifesaving feature to wearables.

Google and Apple have already developed a cross-platform, Bluetooth-based COVID-19 detection system for smartphones. The proposal by the Bluetooth SIG would extend that system to wearables (say for people who workout with just their Apple Watch or similar device.)

It is incredibly inspiring to see the Bluetooth community’s collaboration in finding and creating innovative ways to leverage Bluetooth technology to address the COVID-19 pandemic.” said Mark Powell, CEO of the Bluetooth SIG. “We are grateful for the dedication and commitment of the Bluetooth members and proud of their work on this important effort.”

The Bluetooth SIG also highlights that many children don’t have smartphones, but COVID-19 could present a risk both to themselves and even others unknowingly in the case of asymptomatic carriers.


(Image Credit: Bluetooth SIG)
Image Credit: Bluetooth SIG

Anyone at particular risk could be equipped with a basic, low-cost Bluetooth device to ensure they can be notified if they’ve been in the vicinity of a confirmed case of COVID-19.

There are several population groups critical to managing the spread of diseases like COVID-19 with relatively low smartphone penetration, presenting a coverage challenge for smartphone-based Exposure Notification Systems (ENS),” said Elisa Resconi, a physics professor at the Technical University of Munich now leading research on non-pharmaceutical interventions against COVID-19. “We believe including wearable devices in an ENS would be a very effective method for extending its reach to support these important groups.

Of course, devices without on-board connectivity will need to connect to a device with internet access periodically in order to update the network with their contacts. Much like the smartphone implementation, all personal data is anonymised behind unique IDs.

The Bluetooth SIG is expecting to release an initial draft within the next few months, but there’s no word yet on any initial supporting devices.

Hopefully, it reaches our wrists sooner rather than later. Research suggests that if 60 percent of any population uses an exposure notification system, the spread of COVID-19 could be stopped entirely.

You can find out more about Bluetooth SIG’s ENS plan for wearables here

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