Oura and other fitness-tracking companies, like Garmin and Whoop, think body-temperature, breathing, and heart-rate data from their devices can do more than assess recovery and improve fitness—they might also help users know when they’re getting sick days before they do. And with that information, perhaps they wouldn’t go out to the grocery store and get close to others. Or visit an older relative. Or decide to go for a long run, which could potentially dampen their immune system enough to give the virus an upper hand. If enough people were using trackers, public-health institutions could even use the data to create a sort of infectious disease “weather map” that alerts the public about trends in diseases like the coronavirus.
What makes these trackers compelling to researchers is that they constantly measure your body—day and night. This is different than, say, going to a doctor, who takes one measurement at one point in time. “You can think of it as analogous to your radio being on for one second a day versus all day,” says Smarr. “With just a second, all you know is that a signal is coming through. Leave it on all day, and you can hear music.” This means you can also notice an oddity that indicates an oncoming illness. Read More: Outside