A key problem with Covid-19 is that people become infectious a couple of days before they start displaying symptoms.
The elarm app aims to let you know you're sick before you know you're sick - by crunching data from a "wearable" like one of Fitbit's bands or smart watches.
Elarm monitors heart rate data collected by your wearable, including exercise recovery rates - it can work by that alone, but the more data, such as temperature readings, the better. It can then alert you if you might have entered the dangerous 48-hour window where you are infectious with Covid but not yet displaying symptoms.
The app was created by Datamine, a well-established Auckland company that sifts through large amounts of data.
Founder Paul O'Connor says in February this year, clients like Air New Zealand and Flight Centre began to flag that the coronavirus outbreak could be a lot worse than many were anticipating.
O'Connor realised his company could bring its data analytics skills to bear - and a prototype version of elarm was released in March, and a beta (trial version) by June.
Elarm is now available on Apple and Google's app stores, with a US$4.50 per month charge for analysing data collected by your wearable (Herald technology columnist Juha Saarinen is currently testing elarm, using data collected by a Fitbit Versa; more on that next week).
It currently works with data collected via the Google Fit app - which can be installed on Apple's Watch as well as wearables in the Android camp, but elarm is also working on full integration with Apple Health - which is expected in around three weeks.
O'Connor says it can currently detect Covid-19 with a 70 per cent success rate, thanks to analysing thousands of data points, developed in collaboration with medical clinicians from New Zealand (including Counties Manukau DHB critical care specialist Dr Brett Gerrard), Australia, United Kingdom, Europe and the US (including rapid testing specialist Dr Todd Malan).
He says elarm has caught "several dozen" Covid-19 cases overseas. Trials have also involved feeding in data from the wearables of people who were Covid-positive. He sees elarm on track for an accuracy rate above 80 per cent.
Wearables and e-health is a booming area, and elarm isn't alone in offering a canary in the coalmine for Covid-19. Apple's new Watch Series 6 has a blood-oxygen sensor whose readings can, among other things, serve as an earlier coronavirus warning. It also alerts a user to unusual heart activity.
O'Connor says elarm's points of difference include the sheer number of data points it crunches, and a dashboard function for large organisations as part of its new business-to-business product - which is about to be trialled by 120 staff with a listed mining company in Australia, all of whom will wear the Fitbit Inspire HR - plus 500 staff at a large hospital group in the US, which employs tens of thousands overall.
Elarm is also happy to unequivocally state that users own and control their own data - which is kept in Datamine's cloud-based Health Vault, where files are encrypted and the EU's tough GDPR privacy standards are adhered to.
Elements like the Health Vault and data analysis are meat and drink for Datamine, but O'Connor says different skills are needed for growing a global app.
Datamine is therefore looking to spin-off elarm and raise around $3 million in the process. Skills with startups, and contacts in the key US market (where around 22 per cent already own a wearable) are high on O'Connor's wishlist for potential investors.
Of course, at some point there will be a vaccine - or vaccines - for Covid-19, or the virus will burn itself out.
But O'Connor anticipates that won't be for some time. And he adds that elarm could be readily adapted for outbreaks to come.