The United States Naval Academy (USNA) is helping the Department of Defense (DoD) refine the algorithm underlying its Rapid Analysis of Threat Exposure (RATE) software. The study results will help expand the list of illnesses associated with the biometric risk factors assessed by the RATE tool, and could potentially add COVID-19 to that list.
The USNA recently hosted the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) and Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) to inform and consent midshipmen volunteers to participate in the DoD study. The RATE research effort utilizes wearable devices and an algorithm to attempt to recognize if an individual has an infection prior to the onset of symptoms, through the daily analysis of biometric signals like heart rate, respiration, and temperature.
“You should think of RATE like the check-engine light in your car,” said Heather Ichord, a contractor with the DIU program team and a USNA graduate. “When that check-engine light comes on, you know something is amiss. In this case, the idea is that you could be coming down with an infection, but the important point is you’re getting yourself to a medical professional for a conversation, an early diagnostic, and then treatment.”
The RATE program leverages a previous prototyping effort developed in collaboration with DIU, DTRA, and Philips Healthcare, which originated by training an algorithm on a data set of approximately 300,000 hospital-acquired infections, including sepsis, pneumonia, and SARS. DIU's mission is to accelerate the adoption of commercial technology across the DOD to benefit service members, and the team leads the coordination in the modification of the existing RATE technology to meet the changing health environment.
With a larger group of participants, the hope is that the algorithm can be refined to include COVID-19 in the list of infections that are identifiable pre-symptomatically. At study conclusion, the program aims to not only be able to indicate an infection prior to the presentation of symptoms but also add to the many measures that are already in place at the Academy to help keep midshipmen healthy. There are approximately two to three positive cases of COVID-19 and other illnesses being observed daily through the RATE algorithm across the total pool of participants. The hope is that by early spring, an improved RATE algorithm will provide commands with better information for future training, travel, and readiness decisions.
"We are happy to be a partner in this effort, which has the potential to better inform military readiness decisions in the future," said USNA Superintendent Vice Adm. Sean Buck. “We’re excited to learn more about the results of the study as the DIU/DTRA team moves forward.”
Approximately 2,000 USNA midshipmen, uniformed faculty, and staff volunteered for the study, which included the supply issue of smart watches and rings to collect and measure biometric data. In the coming weeks, the RATE program is slated to expand enrollment to approximately 10,000 total individuals from military-affiliated cohorts across the country; included in these numbers are USNA, as well as the Office of Secretary of Defense, select Combatant Commands, U.S. Military Academy, and Veterans Affairs.
“We really do believe that real-time monitoring will be part of the way that we approach military readiness in the world of pandemics today and tomorrow,” said Lt. Matthew Lafleur, USNA’s RATE program coordinator.