Apple Is Said to Develop EKG Heart Monitor for Future Watch
Apple is developing an advanced heart-monitoring feature for future versions of its smartwatch, part of a broader push by the company to turn what was once a luxury fashion accessory into a serious medical device, according to Bloomberg, citing people familiar with the plan.
A version being tested requires users to squeeze the frame of the Apple Watch with two fingers from the hand that’s not wearing the device, one of the people said. It then passes an imperceptible current across the person’s chest to track electrical signals in the heart and detect any abnormalities like irregular heart rates.
These medical tests, known as electrocardiograms or EKGs and ECGs, are common in doctors’ offices, hospitals and ambulances. But they only monitor the heart’s activity for short periods, limiting their ability to spot potential abnormalities. There are wearable versions, too, such as the Holter monitor, but these usually track the heart continuously for a few days at most.
Apple’s current Watch has a more basic heart rate monitor, but the company is increasingly trying to use advanced sensors to predict future afflictions, rather than simply collect historical data about the body. An EKG would make it easier to establish the health of a user’s heart, and potentially spot some cardiac problems early.
The development process is ongoing and Apple may still decide not to include the technology in future products, the people said. One hurdle to tech companies entering the medical-device market has been the stringent testing requirements imposed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The agency outlined proposals in July to use more computer testing to speed up approvals, potentially helping new entrants.
Apple Watch users can already buy an EKG made by AliveCor that is built into the watch’s strap. The startup’s device and its algorithm have received FDA approval. Portable EKGs from the likes of Medtronic that work with smartphones have been available for several years.