The problem our project solves
One of the unique and terrible features of the COVID-19 virus is the delayed onset of symptoms combined with a high viral count which means that a-/presymptomatic people are spreading the virus to people around them several days before they experience the first symptoms.
Due to lack of scalable early detection methods, most countries are trying to prevent a-/presymptomatic yet infected people from spreading the virus through complete lockdown measures in most parts of the world where they shut down all workplaces, shops, restaurants, and most public areas and tell EVERYONE to stay at home, which ultimately has a massive negative impact on economies and the wellbeing of people.
Most countries don’t have enough test kits, and the use of current testing methods requires special expertise (so tests can’t be conducted at home), and they’re too expensive to be distributed to a-/presymptomatic individuals so that they’d start testing themselves regularly at home to ensure early detection before symptoms kick in, and to self-isolate in case the test is positive.
The solution we bring to the table
Recent scientific research in heart beat and heart rate variability (“HRV”) has given us the following hypothesis: acute changes in HRV should precede COVID-19 infection. This hypothesis is the foundation of our solution.
The solution is a consumer app combined with a deep technology A.I. platform for healthcare providers, government bodies and research institutions. The app allows users to capture their biometric and behavioural data without any wearable devices or special equipment, get notified about acute data changes, and track potential symptoms. The platform allows healthcare providers, governments and research institutions to get access to labeled, real-time health data sets (both biometric and behavioural) of their patients/citizens/customers (i.e. the app users) and to analyse it, detect acute changes in it and detect potential symptoms reported by users. Thus they are able to monitor the wellbeing of users, and ultimately to control the spread of COVID-19 locally. The idea is to detect citizens with acute data changes and guide them to stay at home instead of locking down entire countries and telling everyone to stay at home.
Prior to the coronavirus, we already had developed a data-driven habit-building iOS app in the App Store and a beta-version of Android app that analyzes a variety of user’s health & wellbeing data and recommended relevant activities based on the user's real-time wellbeing and recovery status. The algorithms have been trained and refined with scientific research data and real user data over the past year (the app has more than 6000 downloads in the App Store). The algorithms use a variety of biometric and behavioral data types (20 at the moment) retrieved from wearable devices, health & fitness & nutrition & sleep & mindfulness apps.
For users without wearable devices, we had also developed and tested a 60-second fingertip scan for capturing some of the biometric data points to analyze their wellbeing and recovery status (we call it ‘Stress Score’). This is a simple score that takes into account a variety of data points and warns you if your data is off and recommends rest and adjustment of the intensity of your activities if the different data points show your body hasn’t recovered well and is, therefore “stressed”.
When the COVID-19 madness started in January we started gathering and reviewing research with our medical advisor about acute heart rate variability (“HRV”) changes potentially preceding infection. This line of R&D we have continued to pursue since on our own and as part of various hackathons we have participated in.
In order to be able to provide a scalable and affordable solution for tackling the coronavirus globally, we need relevant solutions in place to enable collaboration with healthcare providers, governmental bodies, and research institutions – the app for capturing the data is simply not enough.
What have we done during the weekend
During the weekend we worked on finding a workable approach to leverage our existing deep technology A.I. platform as a foundation for a SaaS platform for capturing health data for our (future) partners. We also investigated potential privacy issues related to such a platform and available solutions to tackle them. Furthermore, we continued to explore for and pursue identified potential research collaboration partners.
The solution’s impact to the crisis
Through allowing healthcare providers and governments to identify individuals with acute data changes in real-time and enabling them to guide these individuals to stay at home, monitor their wellbeing and wait for potential symptoms, we’ll be able to avoid country-wide lockdowns and mitigate both societal, economic, and individual risks related to prolonged social distancing. Avoiding country-wide lockdowns with our solution will have a massive impact on unemployment rates, avoiding bankruptcies, and the physical and mental wellbeing of citizens.
Our technology does not require expensive wearables or special equipment and thus it can be scaled to all smartphone users. It will support current validated and proven testing methods through allowing healthcare providers and governments to detect potential cases early on.
The necessities in order to continue the project
The continuation of our project includes refining the iOS and Android user apps, finalising the SaaS platform, and launching the solution with healthcare partners. Furthermore, to continue with the project we need to validate the HRV hypothesis in collaboration with universities and/or other research institutions. In practical terms, the implementation of our solution necessitates funding which will enable us to finalise and launch the solution to the market asap. For this purpose we already have applied for funding as part of the Horizon 2020 programme (Enhanced EIC Accelerator Pilot). Moreover, it is essential we find partners to do research collaboration with in order to validate our hypothesis during the next 6-12 months.
The value of our solution(s) after the crisis
Our health-data driven solution is not only COVID-specific but can be used for early detection of other viral infections as well such as influenza. We hope it will empower people to take a preventive approach to their own health and wellbeing. Furthermore, we see a great potential through integration with public and private healthcare after clinical validation of the solution.
Having access to the real-time health & wellbeing data of the citizens is a great asset for any healthcare provider when it comes to prevention work (of chronic lifestyle diseases and other health issues) and understanding the connection between healthy behaviour and actual health outcomes. Therefore, our solution is more than relevant beyond the current COVID-19 crisis.
A key component of the value of our solution is that it is a scalable and affordable early detection technology for all the smartphone users globally. It can be used to inform users about their wellbeing status based on biometric data and guide them to self-isolate in cases of acute data changes that might indicate an approaching infection (such as COVID-19).
Provided we find research partners, we will also be able to gather labeled datasets to be shared with researchers and experts worldwide allowing them to apply the data & findings to local solutions and applications to tackle COVID-19 and other seasonal viral infections such as annual influenza.
The real-time and biometric-data-based guidance of individuals will prevent a-/presymptomatic people from spreading the virus as they’ll be able to isolate even before symptoms appear, and as a result most countries will avoid country-wide lockdowns. This can have tremendous potential in terms of managing and mitigating societal, economic, and individual risks related to prolonged social distancing.