WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- Future versions of the Apple Watch may contain several more health features.
- Apple plans to add trackers that monitor blood pressure, temperature, sleep, blood oxygen levels, and even blood sugar levels.
- Critics question the accuracy of these trackers, however, compared to conventional diagnostic tools.
While some planned features seem promising, others appear far-fetched. Plans include monitors for temperature, sleep, blood pressure, and blood sugar.
Apple has planned for a device that could measure blood pressure for years. Back in 2016, they filed a patent application for a wearable blood pressure monitor. For the Watch, they plan to add a sensor that acts like a blood pressure cuff that does not need to squeeze the wrist.
Other device manufacturers have also planned to add a blood pressure tracker. Last year, South Korea approved blood pressure tracking for the Samsung Galaxy Watch.
However, critics have questioned the feature’s accuracy and usefulness. The sensor still has to be calibrated every four weeks with measurements from conventional blood pressure cuffs.
The temperature sensor was also planned for this year’s Apple Watch but was postponed to next year. This could also be included in the fertility tracking feature.
Fitbit’s Sense and Amazon’s Halo Band currently have sensors for skin temperature, but it is different from the internal body temperature measured by a thermometer. Earlier this year, the FDA cleared the use of Oura smart ring’s temperature data for digital birth control Natural Cycles.
Apple plans to expand the Watch’s ability to track sleep and blood oxygen levels by adding features that can detect sleep apnea and other sleep disorders. However, this could mean that the sensor must be kept on all night, which could be quite battery-draining.
So far, the most far-fetched Apple Watch plan involves noninvasive blood sugar tracking and diabetes detection. The company has yet to successfully develop this feature.
Apple also plans to apply for FDA clearance for current features such as heart rhythm tracking and alerts for sudden drops in blood oxygen levels. The current EKG feature is not yet approved for use by those who have a diagnosed heart rhythm condition like atrial fibrillation. The blood oxygen monitor is also not cleared as a medical device.
The sources cited by the WSJ report believe that many of the planned features “might never be rolled out to consumers.”
While manufacturers of wearables may mean well in trying to add several health features, the devices still can’t offer the same degree of accuracy that conventional diagnostic tools provide. Advancements in health technology can take years of development and testing after all, in addition to obtaining regulatory approval.
Source: The Verge