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NewsPentagon developing wearable technology to predict different diseases

Pentagon developing wearable technology to predict different diseases

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The U.S. Department of Defense is making investments in wearable technology that has the potential to quickly predict the occurrence of different diseases.

Working in collaboration with the private sector, the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) has already created a wearable device that proved highly effective in identifying COVID-19 infections during the pandemic. But they did not stop at this point.

Jeff Schneider, the program manager for the Rapid Assessment of Threat Exposure (RATE) project, says the Defense Department intends to expand the device’s usage to detect other infectious diseases among military service members. If the existing version of the technology can detect just COVID-19, the upgraded version should be able to detect multiple pathogens.

The RATE algorithm is able to use the biometric data obtained from different sources, including commercially-available smartwatches. Image credit: Solan Feyissa via Unsplash, free license

Initially launched in 2020 by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, the RATE project has been successful in its prototype phase during the COVID-19 crisis. This project uses a robust artificial intelligence algorithm with predictive capabilities which was trained using data collected from monitored cases of COVID-19 in hospitals.

The algorithm utilizes biometric data obtained from readily available commercial wearables. By employing the RATE algorithm, early detection of infectious diseases was made possible, with the ability to identify them up to 48 hours before symptoms became apparent.

Smartwatches that can predict infections are being tested with the U.S. military servicemen. Photo by Cynthia Griggs, U.S. Air Force

In certain instances, the algorithm accurately predicted infections up to six days before their onset, even including cases where individuals were asymptomatic.

The aim of the Department of Defense (DOD) is to maintain the preparedness of its personnel for crucial missions. However, infectious diseases like COVID-19 have always posed an unpredictable risk. Through the utilization of RATE, the DOD can employ commercial wearables to non-invasively monitor the health of service members and provide early alerts regarding potential infections, effectively containing their spread.

Philips is actively participating in the development of the algorithm and has expanded its global efforts to accelerate the commercialization and scaling process.

According to Philips, the algorithm is not limited to specific devices and can utilize biomarker data from any commercially available wearable. By analyzing these markers against their clinical datasets in the cloud, they generate a RATE wellness score that has demonstrated its effectiveness in indicating the onset of infections.

The developer also plans to offer the capability to other firms through a licensing model. The current version of RATE is being tested with Garmin watches and Oura rings.

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