Study: Fitness wristbands could detect COVID-19 hotspots

Fitness wristbands have established themselves. Measuring your heart rate, the number of steps and kilometres you have walked or an analysis of your own sleep patterns are no longer a secret. Now these devices can also detect COVID-19 hotspots.

Nature Medicine did a study and found that the typical functions of a fitness wristband can help identify COVID-19 hotspots. Users have to enter additional information about symptoms in an app. This data is then used for an epidemiological investigation.

This is the conclusion reached by a team from the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla, California. They have generated an app where users can enter symptoms that may indicate infection with Covid-19. The app is called “MyDataHelps” and is not available in Germany.

In the study, all test subjects had both, the app and a fitness bracelet. Of the 30,529 people who downloaded the app, 3,811 had matching symptoms. 54 of the 333, who were tested, were positive.

Then the researchers investigated the correlation between the data from the app and those from the fitness wristband. They found out that people who had Covid-19 had an average of 3,533 fewer steps and 57 minutes more sleep.

Source: iStock / Mikolette
Fitness wristbands can help to identify potential hotspots. (Source: iStock / Mikolette)

The AUC value shows the correlations between the recorded data and an actual illness. By combining the app and fitness bracelet data, the value increases to 0.8. If the value were 1, the certainty would be 100 percent.

For this reason, this AUC value is not an option to generate an early detection. Nevertheless, the value offers the possibility of providing indications of possible new hotspots if selected readings and symptoms increase in an area.


In contrast to various corona warning apps, the researchers assume that it is sufficient if only about 1-2 percent of fitness wristband users would download the app to obtain reliable results.

In summary, the app “MyDataHelps” in combination with a fitness wristband can help to provide information about new hotspots.

Source cover image: iStock /martin-dm