PhysIQ and Purdue University launch study to develop algorithms for detecting earliest signs of COVID-19 from biometric smartwatch data

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Certain changes in a person’s heart and breathing rates could precede symptoms of COVID-19, an increasing number of studies suggests.

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Purdue University researchers are helping to develop physIQ software that could indicate that a person should get tested for COVID-19 by detecting specific changes in heart and breathing rates while the person wears a smartwatch. Pictured: Jennifer Anderson, Ph.D. student, Purdue’s Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering. (Purdue University photo/John Underwood)

Purdue University researchers have begun a study that would help determine if continuously collected biometric smartwatch data could be used to reliably and accurately detect these signs early, which could indicate that a potentially asymptomatic user should get tested for COVID-19.

Data from the study will inform new algorithms to be developed by physIQ, a Purdue-affiliated digital health technology company based in Chicago. The company has support from the Purdue Research Foundation’s Foundry Investment Fund.

Smartwatches on the market already collect a wide range of physiologic data, but incorporating metrics such as heart rate, heart rate variability and respiration rate that may help detect COVID-19 at the earliest stages will take more research, studies by companies such as Fitbit have stated.

Although smartwatch-like devices are not currently substitutes for gold-standard diagnostic tests used in clinics and hospitals, some wearable devices are starting to serve as tools for helping a clinician make a diagnosis.

“There won’t be a point where a smartwatch can tell you that you’re COVID-19 positive, but it could potentially say, ‘Within the next couple of days, you might be getting sick and should go get tested,’” said Craig Goergen, Purdue’s Leslie A. Geddes Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering.

Previous studies have shown that viral infections increase resting heart and respiration rates and decrease heart rate variability


14 Purdue University students suspended after throwing dorm party, officials say

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More than a dozen Purdue University students were suspended this week after officials say they disregarded school rules and threw a party in a residence hall amid the coronavirus pandemic.

After finding out about the Sept. 26 event, Katie Sermersheim, associate vice provost and dean of students, issued suspensions to 14 students, including 13 athletes, for violating the school’s Protect Purdue Pledge.


In part, the pledge asks students to maintain “appropriate social distancing,” especially when in the presence of others, in order to stem the spread of COVID-19 on campus. To make sure this happens, the school has specifically prohibited students from hosting, organizing or attending events on or off-campus that do not allow for safe social distancing.


The guidelines read in part: “Organizing and/or hosting, either individually or with others, an event, party or other gathering (‘event’) or attending such an event, where the attendees are not required to, or willfully fail or refuse to, adhere to the requirements of the Protect Purdue Pledge, or of state or local public health laws, regulations or orders.” This includes but is not limited to maintaining a 6-foot distance from others and wearing an appropriate face mask, according to the school.

Per the university’s code of conduct, students found in violation of the pledge are “subject to disciplinary action,” according to the school’s Monday notice.


Sermersheim used the opportunity to remind students of the importance of adhering to the Protect Purdue Pledge amid the ongoing pandemic.

“This virus continues to be the demise of many universities and academic pursuits,” she said.

While the majority of students are “behaving admirably,” the school “cannot let our guard down and must hold those who violate