The coronavirus outbreak has been spreading around the world, straining national healthcare systems and panicking global markets. Effectively containing the epidemic is currently the international community’s top priority. Artificial intelligence (AI) and big data will be valuable in analyzing and controlling the coronavirus outbreak, and more health and wearables companies are stepping up to help.
First identified in Wuhan, China on December 8, 2019, the coronavirus has sickened more than 95,333 people in about 86 countries as of March 5, 2020, according to the WHO’s daily situation report. Now known as COVID-19, the new infectious disease can spread from person to person and has killed thousands. In the past week, infections have skyrocketed in South Korea, Iran, and Italy. As the hardest-hit country, China has taken measures to isolate patients in affected areas, imposed travel bans, and postponed the re-opening of offices and schools as part of its social distancing policies meant to curb transmission.
The outbreak is also threatening the global economy. China’s manufacturing production has slowed in recent weeks, but it is beginning to resume as movement restrictions are loosening in some cities, according to Reuters. The virus has also cooled China’s consumer demand and negatively affected the services sector. But China’s economy is not the only one feeling the pain; US markets like the S&P 500 have dropped more than 7% from the record highs set on February 26.
How can the world contain the outbreak? Scholars and researchers have been figuring out how to better detect, treat, and control the disease with the help of AI and big data. A report published on January 16 in The Lancet, a well-known medical journal, explained that information such as resting heart rate (RHR) and sleep data gleaned from wearable devices can help “improve real-time and geographically refined surveillance” on influenza-like illness. Moreover, an article published on February 20 in The Lancet explored the potential of AI in curbing the spread of COVID-19 by capturing key data on the disease and predicting its seasonal spread.
Huami (NYSE: HMI), the world’s leading wearable device maker, is contributing to the analysis of the epidemic. The company has collected over 26 million anonymized sleep data samples, including information such as RHR, from approximately 115,000 people who wear Huami’s smartwatches or wrist-bands. Irregular physiological measurements such as elevated RHR and unusual sleep data might reflect health problems such as severe infections. The data is from wearers from Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak, and neighboring Anhui province, and was collected between July 1, 2017 and February 20, 2020. Huami intends to identify how fluctuations in physiological measurements correlate with infections like COVID-19.
Huami’s preliminary analysis revealed the proportion of users with abnormal data over the past several months peaked on January 21, 2020, much earlier than usual. Comparing data from Wuhan, Hubei, and Hefei, Anhui, it is clear that Wuhan’s peak was seven days earlier than Hefei’s, while the peak time over the past two years was basically synchronous. Huami speculates that the coronavirus outbreak is responsible for the early spike in physiological abnormalities, though this hypothesis is yet to be verified, and the differences could be caused by other seasonal flu.
Huami reportedly plans to expand its research on COVID-19 patients who authorized the company to monitor their health in real time and track the effectiveness of their treatment. Huami CEO Huang Wang said that the company hopes that health data from its wearable devices can contribute to predicting epidemics and providing earlier outbreak warnings. Huami is willing to share the data with health departments at home and abroad, while protecting sensitive personal data, in hopes of mitigating the impact of the outbreak.
Huami is one of the leaders in the global wearable devices market, having shipped 100 million units worldwide as of last August. In 2019, more than half of Huami’s products were shipped overseas. The company’s long-term goal is to establish a global healthcare ecosystem and reshape the healthcare industry. Huami will continue to make innovative health and fitness wearable products and AI that will likely lead to improved public health outcomes and medical technologies.
(Top photo from Pixabay and Amazfit)