Wearable Tech Could Make Travel and Tourism Possible Again
One of the biggest difficulties in limiting the spread of COVID-19 has been the daunting task of tracing contacts and mitigating the spread from tourists entering countries.
Some countries have closed their borders to non-citizens, and U.S. citizens are restricted by certain travel measures right now. But as policies relax and people start traveling abroad again, one answer to the problem might be wearable technology.
Singapore is one example that has used wearable tech to track returning residents during a 14-day quarantine.
According to Phocus Wire, once a returning citizen has cleared immigration, they receive an electric monitoring device that ensures that they take the quarantine period seriously.
Hong Kong and South Korea have also given out wristbands that track entrant’s movements to spot possible outbreaks and act fast before it spreads.
In the U.S., the idea is on the table in places like Hawaii, where tourism groups are considering using GPS technology to track movement within resort areas. Also, Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, said while it might worry some people to relinquish some privacy of movement, the economic relief would be immense.
“Travel is the front door to economic development,” Dow said. “If we don’t get this thing moving again with [wearable] technologies, this economy and country is going to be in very dire straits.”
Dow is reportedly interested in a product from U.S. biotech company BioIntelliSense called the BioButton. It’s about the size of a quarter and sticks to the wearer’s chest to monitor vitals like respiratory rate and body temperature. In addition to potentially flagging COVID-19 symptoms early, it would serve as a contact tracing tool to take any guesswork out of quarantining an outbreak.
The BioButton has been used by health professionals since January to monitor patients' health remotely after they’re released. It's also being used for travelers to the Cayman Islands.
When international visitors are welcomed back to the Cayman Islands, they'll be utilizing the new BioButton, wearable tech that monitors heart rates and temperature: https://t.co/7osP0nyVWp #TravelNews
— KHM Travel Group (@KHMTravel) August 23, 2020
Since so much data is streamlined into one piece, it could appeal to travelers who don’t want their vacations marred by additional headaches like questionnaires, repeated testing and temperature tests.
“I have some clients that are ready to travel but are choosing to wait, not only for safety but because there are so many hoops to jump through, and they feel it will take some of the pleasure out of travel for them,” travel agent Margie Hand told Phocus Wire.
Even if it works, however, it might be a tough sell in the U.S. if people don’t want to wear something that keeps tabs on them or jeopardizes complete privacy.
But, if people look at places that have used contact tracing to success, like South Korea where live sports came back after a relatively short break, they might see the positives as outweighing the negatives—especially if they’re assured that their data won’t be shared with any outside party.
“It is difficult to mandate or monitor for compliance, but consumers may be more willing to opt in if they clearly see the health and safety benefits to the contact tracing program and are confident that their data is being protected and used for the appropriate purpose,” Rob Mesirow, leader of PwC’s connected solutions and Internet of Things, told Phocus Wire.