Seattle study will loan participants Apple Watch to see if it can help predict COVID

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Apple Watch Series 6
This could prove to be a game-changer for Apple Watch capabilities.
Photo: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac

Can the iPhone and Apple Watch help predict illnesses like COVID-19? That’s the question being asked by researchers from Apple, the Seattle Flu Study, and the University of Washington — and you can help them answer it. And get loaned an Apple Watch for the duration of the six-month study for your troubles.

The study is currently recruiting for participants who live in the greater Seattle area. Participants must have “higher than normal risk of respiratory illness because of frequent exposure to other people through work or other activities, health conditions, or other factors.”

If you fit these criteria, own an iPhone 6s or above, are over the age of 22, and willing to participate for up to six months, the researchers want to hear from you. Participants in the study will be asked to fill out a short survey using the Apple Research app each week. They will also receive COVID-19 and other acute respiratory illness testing during the course of the study. In addition, they’ll get an Apple Watch provided for the duration of the stud. This must be worn 24/7 (or, at least, whatever time it’s not charging.)

The researchers note that:

“The goal of the study is to see if the information collected by the Apple Watch and iPhone can detect early signs of respiratory illnesses like COVID-19. If you are eligible and decide to participate, you will be provided an Apple Watch to wear. The watch will collect information about your health and activity. You will also be asked to answer simple survey questions in the Apple Research app on your iPhone about respiratory symptoms and lifestyle on a weekly and monthly basis.”

Using Apple Watch to track COVID

This isn’t the first time the Apple Watch has been suggested as a possible device for helping identify COVID-19 cases. Two studies earlier this year showed that Apple’s smartwatch could be used to detect COVID-19 infections. This could potentially be done a week before the wearer feels sick or would test positive. It does this by spotting subtle changes in heart rate that might indicate an early infection. As such, the studies suggested Apple Watch might be useful for identifying asymptomatic individuals.

Tim Cook has previously said he believes Apple’s focus on health could ultimately prove to be its biggest legacy. While there’s a long way to go before people think of Apple as the health-tech company instead of the iPhone or Mac company, research like this could certainly help.

Have you ever participated in an Apple Research study? Let us know in the comments below.