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Wearable Tech: The World's New Bet to Tackle Coronavirus?

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Many industries across the globe are witnessing a bloodbath as the outbreak of novel coronavirus is forcing several companies to shut their businesses or scale back their normal operations to curtail the spread of the deadly contagion. At the same time, with the pandemic woes intensifying, stakeholders are racing against time to develop technological solutions to pitch in on the COVID-19 frontline.

With the gradual reopening of economy and the relaxation of lockdown, companies are beginning to assess how to bring back employees to their work places. As the virus can spread through even asymptomatic people, wearable technology is playing a pivotal role in effectively providing us insights into a number of health-related parameters, such as heart rate, body temperature and more.

Wearable technology has been recognized as an evolving product category in recent years. Per a recent industry data, the global wearable device market is expected to be valued at $62 billion by 2025. And now, it is being deployed to analyze employee health amid this chaotic environment. Although not a substitute for testing, the data collection aids in early identification of potential COVID-19 cases and help encourage individuals to quarantine themselves.

Notably, wearable electronic devices may or may not be under users’ control. They can be deployed either by the state or entities for surveillance of individuals or merely for conveying health information to users. These body-worn devices can also be used to track social distancing and quarantine enforcement.

Emerging Wearable Solutions to Keep COVID-19 at Bay

Wearable technology is the latest breakthrough to tackle coronavirus. Individuals, companies and governments around the world are beginning to use these machines to monitor the course of the disease that could be fatal. Predominantly associated with either a smart watch or an ankle monitor, now electronic bracelets are also being adopted to trace active COVID-19 cases.

In a bid to fight the coronavirus, Amazon (AMZN - Free Report) recently deployed clear plastic-sleeve shaped like gadgets that give off warning signals when workers violate social-distancing mandate. Casino hotel company Las Vegas Sands (LVS - Free Report) is trialling Oura smart rings that can detect COVID-19 symptoms early. The gear tracks sleep as well as monitors body temperature and the heart rate.

Port of Antwerp, key lifeline of the Belgium economy, uses smart bracelets to facilitate social distancing and permits contact tracing to pull through the current crisis. The bracelets, supplied by the Dutch tech company Rombit, are Bluetooth-enabled and equipped with ultra-wideband technology. It issues an alert whenever employees are in close proximity to one another.   

Some countries are also using tracking wristbands or apps to keep tabs on individuals and patients under quarantine orders. Kentucky and West Virginia in the United States made it compulsory to use electronic ankle shackles for individuals who fail to comply with quarantine instructions after testing COVID-19 positive. In Western Australia too, these devices are used for quarantining persons who caught the infection. 

The rapid proliferation of wearable devices like various other mitigations to combat the coronavirus, crops up a question: Can the extensive data accumulation by these wearables succeed in predicting the onset of the virus?

Researchers at Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute in the United States reported that Oura ring successfully anticipated an individual to experience symptoms, such as cough, high temperature and shortness of breath three days prior to the signs of development. The DETECT (Digital Engagement & Tracking for Early Control & Treatment) study by the Scripps Research Translational Institute, which uses devices for tracking heart rate, activity and sleep data plus combines it with participants’ symptom reports to identify potential COVID-19 cases, shows that Fitbit’s (FIT - Free Report) trackers can predict coronavirus in 78% of the 14 patients studied.

A biometric bracelet program known as “AVA-GAPP” was recently rolled out in Liechtenstein to determine if the bracelets supplied by Swiss fertility start-up Ava, are capable of forecasting COVID-19 pre-symptomatic cases. The trial is conducted on 2,200 voluntary participants and the data amassed is pseudonymized.    

Wrapping Up

While wearable devices are the new answer to COVID-19, these devices also come with a host of other problems, which might weaken the sole objective of their adoption. Despite a widespread uptake of wearable technology, getting people acclimatized to this technology still remains a hurdle for the industry to cross. According to Accenture’s (ACN - Free Report) report, the use of wearable technology for health management now stands at 18%, down from 33% registered in 2018.

It is also important to consider the long-term impact of such protective equipment. Strikingly, wearable devices can potentially distract employees, just like social media platforms, as these devices have internet access or appear as a cool piece of kit to play with. Their size and limited battery capacity are concerns too. Some devices like Fitbit’s trackers have a longer battery life compared to more advanced gizmos like Apple’s (AAPL - Free Report) watch series. Even though fitness trackers are available at cheaper rates, those proving to be truly effective are often expensive. Accuracy also remains an obstacle to remote monitoring.

But the worst demerit is the privacy issue. Data gathered by wearables must be kept safe. Although personalized data generated from these devices is allowing informed decision making by doctors, such data is of great value to hackers who can sell or use the same for their vested interest. People will also not feel normal being tracked everywhere.

Finallly, brushing aside all shortcomings, efficacy of wearable technology should justify its speedy deployment. Although using wearable tech in predicting coronavirus by diagnosing vital symptoms is an attractive prospect, GlobalData foresees a long road ahead of these devices before they are put to use for reaping benefits. With wearables witnessing a spike in usage and sensing investors’ strong appetite for stocks in that space, we present three companies, each currently carrying a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) that investors should watch out for.

You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL - Free Report) is one of the most innovative companies in the modern technological age. Its strategic move to acquire wearable fitness company Fitbit highlights its focus on the wearables space. The company has a trailing four-quarter positive earnings surprise of 4.85%, on average.

Apple Inc., headquartered in Cupertino, CA, expects Services and Wearables businesses to drive its top line in fiscal 2020 and beyond. A solid uptake of Apple Watch also helped Apple strengthen its presence in the personal health monitoring space. The company has a trailing four-quarter positive earnings surprise of 10.61%, on average.

Garmin Ltd. (GRMN - Free Report) is benefiting from solid momentum across the Fitness and Outdoor segments owing to buoyant demand for advanced wearables and adventure watches. The company has a trailing four-quarter positive earnings surprise of 22.11%, on average.


These Stocks Are Poised to Soar Past the Pandemic

The COVID-19 outbreak has shifted consumer behavior dramatically, and a handful of high-tech companies have stepped up to keep America running. Right now, investors in these companies have a shot at serious profits. For example, Zoom jumped 108.5% in less than 4 months while most other stocks were sinking.

Our research shows that 5 cutting-edge stocks could skyrocket from the exponential increase in demand for “stay at home” technologies. This could be one of the biggest buying opportunities of this decade, especially for those who get in early.

See the 5 high-tech stocks now>>