Bluetooth SIG to extend fight against Covid-19 with wearables

The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) has announced that it is working on a specification to make wearable devices part of its existing smartphone-based Exposure Notification System (ENS) to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

By including wearables such as wristbands in the ENS programme, it extends reach to population groups where smartphone usage is low, such as children in primary school and older adults living in care facilities. 

An initial draft of the specification is expected to be released and available for review within the next few months.

Typically deployed by government health agencies, all public ENSs to date have used Bluetooth technology already embedded in smartphones to notify people when they have been in close contact with someone who was later diagnosed with Covid-19. 

Because so many people have a smartphone, it presents the ideal foundation for launching an ENS. However, as not everyone has a smartphone, it is not practical to rely on this alone to cover the entire population. 

“There are several population groups critical to managing the spread of diseases like Covid-19 with relatively low smartphone penetration, presenting a coverage challenging for smartphone-based Exposure Notification Systems,” explained Elisa Resconi, a professor at the Technical University of Munich leading research on the spread of Covid-19. 

“We believe including wearable devices in an ENS would be a very effective method for extending its reach to support these important groups.”

Recognising this issue, more than 130 Bluetooth member companies have joined the Bluetooth SIG Exposure Notification Working Group (ENWG) to define a standardised method for adding support for wearable devices while preserving the same privacy and security protections of the ENS. 

Open to all Bluetooth SIG member companies, the ENWG serves as a centralised forum for discussion on the effective use of Bluetooth technology in slowing the spread of Covid-19 and other infectious diseases. 

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