When it comes to fighting Coronavirus, gathering as much information as possible is key. It’s why Taiwan is being lauded as one of the only countries to have thus far handled the outbreak the right way, with robust measures put in place to track individuals who may have the virus. And it’s also why the Cambridge-based ECH smartwatch manufacturer Vagus.co is implementing new measures to obtain more information on the virus, so we have another tool in the fight to keep us safe.

Vagus.co has launched a crowd-sourced open data study in order to gather up as much ECG data as possible through their smartwatches. They are targeting people who may potentially become infected by COVID-19, which is pretty much everyone at this point.

The plan is to collect ECG data from those who have not yet contracted coronavirus, but during the course of the study are likely to catch it at some point. By gathering data this way, there is the potential to learn new things about how the virus operates as it progresses on those infected, which can provide pertinent information on how to detect COVID-19 early, a key factor in helping those people to avoid infecting others. It also has the potential to monitor methods where information could be gleaned on cardiac-respiratory infections such as COVID-19.

This has never been tried before in history regarding those contracting coronavirus. Vagus.co believe that this type of method, collecting large amounts of data, can only be done by utilizing crowd-sourced collection of data. To detect the minute changes in cardiac and respiratory conditions, it’s also necessary to complete their ‘Vagus ECG test’, by using a controlled breathing technique.

Vagus’ will use the information from those who already own Vagus ECG smartwatches and have permitted them to allow monitoring with the ‘Vagus ECG Test’. It’s not a formal clinical study, but it can still shed some important light on the virus that may be extremely important. Also, in a wider sense, it sets a precedent for using data collection to help fight infectious diseases which could be of benefit to scientists when it comes to analysing data.

Those who take part in this study will need to complete three Vagus ECG tests per day, at morning, noon and night, which each take 90 seconds to complete. It requires sitting with your hands rested on a table or your knees and following the watch’s simple instructions. After testing, participants are also able to leave a note on their health status and body temperature if they are monitoring it.

For any participants who’ve contracted COVID-19, it’s recommended that they undergo frequent testing and pass the downloaded data of ECG records onto a medical professional or healthcare provider if it’s possible. Those in the same household are also able to use the same watch, as long as it’s linked to their own, separate smartphones which each has the Vagus app on them. As the watch is waterproof, it’s also able to be disinfected as often as needed.

To ensure trust and safety of participants, all data collected is anonymized, GDPR compliant and is available for free for both researchers and individuals, and monthly summaries will be published by Vargus. As Coronavirus becomes ever more prevalent in society, steps like these are what the world needs so we can attempt to get a handle both on COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.