Policy & Regulation
Fitbit announces USD2.5m from US Army to help accelerate and validate its algorithm for early COVID-19 detection
30 October 2020 -

Health & fitness company Fitbit (NYSE:FIT) said on Thursday that it will receive USD2.5m from the US Department of Defense through a Medical Technology Enterprise Consortium (MTEC) from the US Army Medical Research and Development Command (USAMRDC) to advance development of a wearable diagnostic capability for the early detection of a COVID-19 infection in military personnel.

In conjunction, Fitbit will initiate a prospective study with Northwell Health's Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research, a healthcare provider in New York State, to help expedite the development and validation of the Fitbit algorithm to detect COVID-19.

The companies plan to distribute several thousand Fitbit devices to Northwell Health employees, who will receive notifications of potential illness, as well as COVID-19 testing to assess and verify the results. This prospective study reportedly includes the company's collaborative research consortium with The Scripps Research Institute and Stanford Medicine that launched earlier this year.

To date, the study has over 187,500 enrolled participants in the US and Canada, including more than 2,700 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19. Early findings from that study show the Fitbit algorithm can detect nearly 50% of COVID-19 cases one day before participants report the onset of symptoms with 70% specificity.

This study reinforces that breathing rate, resting heart rate and heart rate variability (HRV) are all useful metrics for indicating onset of illness and are best tracked at night, when the body is at rest. Early detection is critical and Fitbit plans to bring wearable illness detection capabilities to its users as soon as possible.