BioButton made available for students, faculty


Photo Courtesy of Oakland University

The BioButton is available for free for anyone with a GrizzID.

After months of testing and launching the app, the BioButton is now available to Oakland students and faculty.

The button “…tracks a wearer’s skin temperature, respiratory rate and heart rate at rest. The BioButton app combines the wearer’s vital sign information with answers to a set of daily screening questions to indicate if users are cleared for regular activities or at risk for a COVID-19 infection,” according to OU’s website.

The button is free for anyone with a “GrizzID,” as long as they fill out a form. The button currently connects with the Android app but not the iPhone.

“Apple is sitting on their latest app update and not releasing the new version,” Vice President of Research David Stone said. “We’ve been working with the company as we’ve been working through the legal challenges.”

The process of implementing the button, which was announced to OU students and faculty on Aug. 1, took a few months because of privacy concerns.

When the button was first announced, students started an online petition, citing privacy concerns as their main source of hesitancy.

The BioButton does not track the user or share their data with anyone but the user.

“The process took a long time,” Stone said. “There was a lot of concern about privacy, and we wanted to make sure we were doing this in a way that student data wasn’t being shared — which it’s not.”

The contract tracing feature was another concern of many when it was announced. If a user encounters another user who is exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, the button will alert them. This feature is solely based on Bluetooth and does not share personal information with the other users or a third party.

Stone said that in his experience, the people who have tried out the button have almost forgot it was on them.

“Everybody says that it’s really easy — that once it’s on, you forget about it,” he said. “It’s very simple to use and very simple to wear — you get updates every six hours.”

The button can be picked up Monday-Friday at the Oakland Center, Vandenberg Hall or Hillcrest Hall from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

It also can be picked up from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Recreation Center, which closes at the semester’s end.

Stone hopes students will pick up the BioButton before winter break to improve contract tracing.

“We really hope that in the period between thanksgiving and the winter break that students go pick them up so that they bring them over the break when they’re out in the world,” Stone said.