Empatica, a computing company focused on human data analytics, partnered up with the U.S. Government’s BARDA Division of Research, Innovation and Ventures (DRIVe), to develop a new smartwatch which will alert wearers about a serious respiratory infection, before any symptoms appear.
Historically, some of the world’s biggest epidemics have been respiratory-related. Each year, approximately 1.25 million people in the United States are hospitalized as a result of community-acquired respiratory tract infections, and their care costs amount to more than $4 billion. More recent estimates by the World Health Organization put the cost of influenza epidemics to the U.S. economy at $71-167 billion per year, while in 2017-18 the country had a record number of flu deaths.
The new smartwatch uses the same technology as Empatica’s FDA-cleared smartwatch Embrace2, which is aimed at people living with epilepsy. Embrace2 uses advanced machine learning to monitor physiological signals, detect any unusual patterns and immediately notify caregivers in the case of possible convulsive seizures. The partnership with DRIVe will utilize this technology to evaluate health signatures that can predict pathogen exposures prior to the manifestation of any symptoms, and alert the user and any caregivers, according to a press release.
“Our team is very honored to support this ambitious project: it’s a great opportunity to produce novel science and products to potentially help millions of patients in the US and around the world. It is also a sign of inspired leadership by DRIVe’s team, with its deliberate vision to support technology at the service of better healthcare,” said Matteo Lai, CEO and co-founder of Empatica.
This project is part of DRIVe’s Early Notification to Act Control and Treat (ENACT) portfolio. Products developed under ENACT aim to empower people by letting them know they are sick before the first symptom appears, encouraging early treatment and potentially reducing the spread of bacteria and viruses.
“Imagine if your future smart watch could tell you your body is fighting sickness before you have any obvious symptoms— and that if you go to sleep two hours early tonight and drink a special beverage you would have 70% less chance of coming down with the flu tomorrow — how would your life be improved? Multiply that by 49M people in the U.S. who had influenza in 2018 — how would our world be improved?” said Rosalind Picard, Empatica co-founder, chief scientist, and MIT professor.