Bluetooth SIG wants wearables included in Covid-19 track and trace

  • August 27, 2020
  • Steve Rogerson

The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) is working to create a specification that will enable wearable devices to participate in existing smartphone-based Covid-19 exposure notification systems (ENSs).
The effort aims to standardise support for wearable devices in smartphone-based ENSs – known commonly as track and trace – using wearables, such as wristbands to address population groups where smartphone usage remains low, including 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. Due to their broad adoption, smartphones represent an ideal foundation for launching an ENS. However, smartphones alone are not a practical approach to cover all segments of the population.
“There are several population groups critical to managing the spread of diseases like Covid-19 with relatively low smartphone penetration, presenting a coverage challenge for smartphone-based exposure notification systems,” said Elisa Resconi, a physics professor at the Technical University of Munich now leading research on non-pharmaceutical interventions against 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 need, 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. The ENWG is open to all Bluetooth SIG member companies and 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.
“It is incredibly inspiring to see the Bluetooth community’s collaboration in finding and creating innovative ways to leverage Bluetooth technology to address the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Mark Powell, CEO of the Bluetooth SIG. “We are grateful for the dedication and commitment of the Bluetooth members and proud of their work on this important effort.”