AI and Machine Learning

Smartwatch-based algorithm detects early signs of viral infections

Purdue University and physIQ announced the co-development of a viral detection algorithm for smartwatches, which can be used to detect COVID-19 and more.

By Purdue University November 15, 2021
Courtesy: John Underwood, Purdue University

Purdue University and physIQ announced the co-development of a viral detection algorithm for smartwatches. This innovation will be the result of a collaboration between physIQ and university engineers. The algorithm will be commercialized by physIQ, which develops solutions designed to improve health care outcomes by applying artificial intelligence to real-time physiological data from wearable sensors.

The research was led by Craig Goergen, Purdue’s Leslie A. Geddes Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering.

“Smartwatches are well-suited for the detection of early viral infection, including COVID-19,” Goergen said. “Infections can happen at any time, making the continuously tracked data available through an individual’s smartwatches uniquely suited to identify the earliest signs of illness. In particular, knowledge of a person’s usual heart rate and respiratory during sleep and activity over long periods of time is especially valuable for detecting subtle changes from normal.”

Study monitors participants using physIQ app compared with biosensor data

The research involved a study of 100 participants, including Purdue students, staff and faculty, to determine whether wearing a smartwatch to collect data was practical, unobtrusive and user-friendly. Each participant received a Samsung Galaxy smartwatch with a pre-loaded physIQ app to collect data. Along with the smartwatch, they also wore FDA-cleared adhesive chest-based biosensors to capture a single-lead electrocardiogram signal and multiple other parameters for five days of continuous monitoring.

Data from the chest patches were processed by physIQ’s U.S. Food and Drug Administration-cleared AI-based algorithms in deriving heart rate, respiration rate and heart rate variability. These data served as “gold standard” references to compare with data from the smartwatches.

“The algorithms for enabling early detection are built off physiological features derived from the biosensor data collected by the smartwatches,” said Stephan Wegerich, physIQ’s chief science officer. “Generating accurate and robust physiological features forms the input to subsequent viral detection algorithms.  This requires the development of sophisticated signal processing and machine learning algorithms. Combined, these make the most out of smartwatch biosensor data, which is a big part of our collaboration with Purdue.”

Purdue University engineers and physIQ, a leader in digital medicine, have developed a viral detection algorithm for smartwatches. The innovation will be commercialized by physIQ. Courtesy: John Underwood, Purdue University

Purdue University engineers and physIQ, a leader in digital medicine, have developed a viral detection algorithm for smartwatches. The innovation will be commercialized by physIQ. Courtesy: John Underwood, Purdue University

The viral infection detection algorithm complements physIQ’s other health care applications. The goal across all of physIQ’s applications is the ability to characterize dynamic human physiology over time, whether it is for assessing the efficacy of a new therapy, safety monitoring during treatment or general wellness.

“The collaborative nature of our relationship and work with Purdue University has the potential to greatly expand physIQ’s physiological monitoring applications that can be targeted to a wide range of clinical needs using the pinpointIQ and accelerateIQ platforms,” said Dr. Steve Steinhubl, physIQ’s chief medical officer and Purdue alumnus.

– Edited by Chris Vavra, web content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology, cvavra@cfemedia.com.


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