Apple could redefine how we track health on our watches by building an advanced electrocardiogram (EKG) sensor into future versions of Apple Watch, potentially bringing clinical-grade tech to the wrist that would help monitor users’ heart rates for irregularities.
Bloomberg’s Alex Webb reported Thursday that a version being tested requires users to squeeze the frame of the device with two fingers from the hand that’s not wearing the device. Apple is still testing this technology and may choose not to release it, added the report.
“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,” reads the article. An integrated EKG would make it easier for watch wearers to spot some cardiac problems early.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, arrhythmia develops in about one-quarter of people over 40 and can increase the risk of strokes and heart failure.
AliveCor’s Kardiaband strap for Apple Watch comes with an integrated EKG
Although users looking to monitor their heart rates with clinical-grade precision can buy portable electrocardiograms from the likes of Medtronic and Holter, or add EKG functions to their Apple Watch with accessories like AliveCor’s Apple Watch strap with a built-in EKG, Apple’s solution would work out of the box and permit users to continuously monitor their heart rates rather than for short periods of time.
Apple Watch has a built-in pulse oximeter that takes advantage of the LEDs and light sensors on the underside of the device to track changes in blood flow from the pumping heart.
In November, the Cupertino company unveiled a research initiative into irregular heart rhythms in partnership with Stanford Medicine. It uses a special app that analyzes historical data gathered by the watch’s heart rate monitor to identify potential irregularities.
Bloomberg speculates that data from that project may help Apple create artificial intelligence-based tools that would spot abnormalities more easily and support the rumored EKG project.
Image: Apple’s op-chief Jeff Williams unveils an initiative to monitor Apple Watch users’ heart rates for irregularities during the September 2017 iPhone X introduction