West Point tests COVID detection device

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WEST POINT – Cadets at West Point have been selected for a test that utilizes a wearable, proximity logging device that helps evaluate where and when COVID outbreaks happen within troops.

The system uses a Samsung smartwatch with enhanced proximity and contact logging to gather data on interactions between devices, with the distinction that no GPS data or physiological data is being gathered. That is, it’s not tracking individuals. 

Chief Technology Officer of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics & Technology Dr. William Cohen has developed the technology for the apparatus after being proposed by Dr. Bruce Jette, the head of the office, as an investigation of an enhanced contact tracing technology used in Singapore. 

Cohen said the idea is to try to bring this technology, once enough field study has occurred, to the joint forces in order to combat the spread of COVID or any other communicable disease.

“The underlying principles that drive such an effort are: could you help prevent community spread by being proactive,” said Cohen. “That’s the ability of something, that we decided should be like a smartwatch, to provide immediate, actionable feedback to users of the device that they’re following social distancing guidelines, or they’re engaging in high-risk behavior.”

Currently, the device is set to the standard of being six feet apart.

This technology ensures the data is reliable, whereas contact tracing would have to be done manually, leaving the variable of an individual’s memory to recall where they were and when. 

Both Dr. Cohen and Chief Information Officer at West Point Col. Ed Teague agreed the academy was an excellent place to launch the program, given the cadets’ willingness to participate and the fact they are mostly confined to their post now, barring special circumstances.

“You have over 4,600 cadets and cadet candidates in close proximity to one another and we are operationalizing the implementation of the technology in the way that Dr. Cohen described it, within the processes that we already had in order to reduce the spread of the COVID infection within the corps,” said Teague.  

Cadets at West Point are currently wearing the devices, which began on Monday and completed on Saturday. Reports are given each day to ensure information from the devices is being sent to their servers for evaluation.