The American space agency NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) will provide 1,000 of its employees, including 150 astronauts, with devices from the consumer electronics company focusing on fitness, Fitbit.
This is a part of the pilot program designed to see if these devices can help supplement efforts to keep these mission-critical personnel healthy ahead of key space missions.
The program will see NASA employees outfitted with a wearable and provided access to a daily check-in app they can use to log potential symptoms, as well as their body temperature and other key health metrics, which could potentially help spot developing cases.
Precaution against COVID-19
NASA has already been taking measures to isolate astronauts and to limit or prevent the spread of COVID-19 across its facilities, which are located across the US. It has followed local guidelines and requirements regarding COVID-19 protections, but it also introduced its own level-based system last year and implemented remote work protocols for many employees wherever possible.
For the astronauts, NASA has also increased existing isolation procedures that are already quite strict in order to guarantee that its spacefarers don’t get sick before they’re set to make a trip to the International Space Station (ISS).
The new Fitbit program is designed to supplement those existing measures, providing tracked health metrics including resting heart rate and heart rate variability, as well as respiratory rate, changes in all of which have been linked to COVID-19. Those data, along with the self-reported metrics logged by users themselves will be used by the app to provide individuals with guidance about whether they should go into work, or stay home and take additional measures to find out if they have COVID-19.
The American firm makes a range of fitness bands, smartwatches and accessories that one can use to track daily steps, exercise, heart rate, weight and more. The company also has mobile apps for iOS and Android and an in-browser dashboard where the user can view their progress over time.
Fitbit is already engaged in studies to determine whether its wearable devices and the metrics they log can be useful in providing early COVID-19 detection. Regardless of those results, self-reporting as well as the basic health metrics that the app logs from its devices are already likely to be useful in understanding the level of risk one poses to others.