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4 months ago
The Pentagon is Working on an Algorithm to Detect Covid Early

Originally published in Politico, Feb 23, 2022.

Preliminary results from an experiment using fitness trackers show promise.

What if a fitness tracker could predict that the wearer was Covid-positive hours or even days before they start noticing symptoms?

To answer the question, the Pentagon has spent the past two years experimenting with “predictive bio-wearables” technology — in this case, a wristwatch and a ring on the user’s finger. The idea is to wear the combo daily just like a fitness tracker, and once users notice a change, they get tested for Covid-19.

And after some promising early results, the agency is ready to move out of the research stage and expand the number of testers.

The project hit a new phase on Wednesday when the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit awarded a contract to Philips Healthcare, which is leading the health monitoring project. The contract award allows DIU to continue its work to advance the algorithm by tracking another 200 users.

The new award effectively moves the project out of the prototyping phase to where other government agencies can acquire the technology.

DIU awarded the contract to Philips using “other transaction authority,” a process that allows the Pentagon to move outside the traditional acquisition system. Under the authority, DoD and the vendor aren’t required to publicize details of the contract award. A spokesperson for DIU declined to disclose the contract amount. Philips did not respond to a request for comment.

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