Empatica, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab spin-off, has collaborated with the US BARDA Division of Research, Innovation and Ventures (DRIVe) to develop a new smartwatch to predict lung infections.

The AI based smartwatch is being used to collect data, as part of a study to learn if it is possible to notify users and caregivers of the development of a serious infection, before symptoms appear.

Common and potentially fatal lung diseases which result from infections include pneumonia and tuberculosis (TB).

Being developed under Powered by DRIVe project, the new device will leverage technology used by Empatica’s Embrace2 smartwatch, which has been created to monitor seizures in epilepsy patients.

“The artificial intelligence (AI) based smartwatch has been designed to notify users and caregivers on the development of a serious infection, even before symptoms appear.”

Embrace2 secured clearance from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in adults and children in February last year and January this year, respectively.

It uses machine learning to track physiological signals, identify any unusual patterns and instantly alert caregivers of possible convulsive seizures.

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As part of the new project, this technology will be leveraged to explore health signatures that can identify pathogen exposures before the manifestation of any symptoms.

The predictive capabilities of the device are expected to detect people at high-risk of disease in real-time and facilitate faster treatment and prevention, in turn decreasing transmission.

Empatica co-founder and chief scientist Rosalind Picard said: “Imagine if your future smartwatch could tell you your body is fighting sickness before you have any obvious symptoms – and that if you go to sleep two hours early tonight and drink a special beverage you would have 70% less chance of coming down with the flu tomorrow – how would your life be improved? Multiply that by 49 million people in the US who had influenza in 2018 – how would our world be improved?”

Under a separate alliance, the company has entered into an agreement with pharmaceutical company Eisai to co-promote the Embrace2 device in the US.

Additional reporting by Charlotte Edwards.