MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – WVU Medicine’s Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute (RNI) is hoping to expand its trial of a smart ring and a smartphone app that can detect COVID-19 three days before the user shows symptoms.
The trial has been underway for several weeks, since the pandemic started and has thus far had roughly 600 participants. This is according to Dr. Ali Rezai, the executive chair of RNI, who said they hope to expand the use of the ring and smartphone app to another 5,000 participants. Rezai said the ring offers insight into how the body is functioning by analyzing if the user has shortness of breath, fatigue, measuring heart rate and much more.
These are technologies that we are providing to facilitate public health and safety and also facilitate the economy to get the economy reintegrated the best we can. These are tools that we are providing to people, in addition, we call this a digital PPE tool, so it’s a tool we’re providing to people in addition to the standard protection equipment — PPE like masks, hand washing, gloves, six feet distancing and so on that people are using to function in their day-to-day lives.
Dr. Ali Rezai – Executive Chair, RNI
Rezai said that is only one part of RNI’s goal, the second is to have people download the app and use it on its own, even if they do not have access to the smart ring. He said the app asks users to submit information about how they are feeling and that information is sent to the cloud to be analyzed and shared with other users.
The app tracks where the person is and how they reportedly are feeling health-wise so that other users can be more informed about how the virus is spreading when they are going about their daily lives, Rezai said. All the information provided on the app requires the user’s permission and personal information is not disclosed, everything is anonymous, he added.
Just as there is a plan to scale up the number of people with the smart ring, so too is there a plan for the app. Rezai said RNI aims to have 10,000 users of the app in the near future.
The smartphone app and smart ring were originally developed two years ago to help analyze athletes, members of the military, dementia patients, those with substance abuse disorder and chronic pain. However, once the pandemic hit, RNI realized that there was a way they could use their technology to combat the virus, Rezai said.
RNI is not selling its technology right now, it’s just trying to get it in the hands of as many people as possible so they can have a comprehensive trial.
“We’ll just keep making progress here, we’re doing it in West Virginia, trying to develop technology to help the state of West Virginia to get the health and safety of the population back and help our economy,” Rezai said “Also, we will be providing our technology to the rest of the country, so our technology is being used in California, our technology is being used in Florida, it’s being used in Tennessee, Pennsylvania and New York. And we wanted to have this opportunity to help more people to provide a healthy and safe approach for them to reengage back in their lives and stay as safe as possible until we can get a vaccine for this COVID.”