Wearable tech could unlock air travel industry
Personal, wearable tech and health monitors could hold the key to easing travel restrictions.
With governments imposing travel restrictions to combat the spread of COVID-19, wearable personal health trackers are increasingly being considered as another way to get the world moving again.
Wristbands already in use in Asia
Wearables are already being used to ensure quarantine requirements are adhered to. In March, Hong Kong put all arriving passengers under a two-week quarantine and medical surveillance to curtail the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The government imposed the requirement of the use an electronic wristband for all arrivals which was accompanied by a smartphone app, in an effort to enforce self-quarantine measures.
Wristband measures have also been imposed in South Korea which alert officials when a person breaks self-quarantine measures by leaving their place of curfew.
Wearable tech market is expanding
Within the wider market, analytics firm GlobalData says interest in wearable technology has surged in recent months and the tech could play a role in providing greater confidence in public safety, which is key for post-pandemic economic recovery. GlobalData expects the wearable tech market to increase from nearly $27bn (£21bn) in 2019 to $64bn by 2024.
But the analytics firm has warned that passenger and consumer privacy is an issue and has recommended that instead of informing a central authority of personal status, wearables should be programmed to create a rotating random identifier and notify others anonymously. It has also called for algorithms “to prevent unauthorised third parties from accessing devices.”
Data may be able to detect early outbreaks
Data from smartwatches and heart monitors is being also being used for early detection of viral outbreaks by US-based Scripps Research. The institute, which advances scientific understanding, is harvesting data from the consumer wearables which could lead to early detection of COVID-19 clusters. Its DETECT programme (Digital Engagement & Tracking for Early Control & Treatment) relies on information provided by owners of heart rate and fitness trackers, such as those produced by Garmin, Apple and Fitbit.
The study methodology is based on recent medical research which concludes that if your heart beats faster than usual, it can mean that you’re coming down with a cold, flu, coronavirus, or other viral infection. It’s hoped that the data will help with the early identification of viral outbreaks. The study will also allow participants to record symptoms like fever or coughing.
BioButton provides 90 day health monitoring
One innovation which could help give passengers the confidence to return to air travel again has been produced by medical device company BioIntelliSense. Its BioButton is an FDA-cleared medical-grade wearable which provides continuous vital sign monitoring for up to 90-days. The disposable device was originally designed for medical use by frontline workers, but the company has said that the easily scalable tech could be used within the mass markets such as travel, in schools or workplaces.
The BioButton could enable the opening up of the international flight network by providing assurance that passengers are safe to travel. Mandated health monitoring of passengers could be required through the device before allowing passengers to board an aircraft.
The disposable device is about the size of £2 coin and is worn on the chest. The BioButton continuously monitors key health metrics such as temperature, respiratory and heart rate for a period of up to 90 days. BioIntelliSense has said that health data is protected through strict privacy and security safeguards. The button can also help with the task of contact tracing as it can also monitor other BioButton wearers which the user comes into proximity with and for how long.
James Mault, MD, CEO of BioIntelliSense said: “The introduction of the BioButton device, in combination with the BioMobile applications and enterprise triage dashboards, represents a significant advancement in making continuous medical-grade monitoring reliable, effortless and cost-effective. The convenience of the BioButton will support a range of clinical use cases for RPM reimbursement and mass market use to enable safe return to work or school."
Locked down travel market will stall economic development
Roger Dow, president and CEO of the US Travel Association, warned that the consequences of not reopening global travel networks could be dire for world economies. He said wearable tech could provide solutions to some of the challenges of air travel during the pandemic. He said: “Travel is the front door to economic development. If we don’t get this thing moving again with [wearable] technologies, this economy and country is going to be in very dire straits.”