Apple apparently has a growing wish list of health features for future versions of the Apple Watch, some feasible and some far-fetched. According to An Wall Street Journal reportApple’s plans include several types of monitoring, including blood pressure, temperature, sleep, and blood sugar. The details come just after reports that the release of the next Apple Watch will likely be delayed due to production issues.
Some of the planned features outlined by the WSJ include adding new sensors to the Watch. Apple wants to develop a sensor that can act as a proxy for a blood pressure cuff without squeezing the wrist. Blood pressure measurement has been in Apple’s plans for years; the company filed a patent application in 2016 for a portable blood pressure monitor.
Apple’s competitors are also interested in blood pressure tracking. Samsung’s Galaxy Watch was approved last year to track changes in blood pressure in South Korea. The accuracy and usefulness of the feature has been debated and it should be calibrated every four weeks with measurements from conventional blood pressure cuffs.
Apple had plans to add a temperature sensor to this year’s Watch, according to previous posts from Bloomberg, but the addition seems to have been postponed to next year. The first planned use for temperature measurement, according to the WSJ, could imply fertility tracking, in the hope that it could eventually detect a fever.
Other wearables, such as Amazon’s Halo Band and Fitbit’s Sense, have skin temperature sensors, although that measurement is different from the internal body temperature read by a thermometer. Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration approved digital birth control Natural Cycles to use temperature data from wearables like the Oura smart ring.
Apple also wants to expand the watch’s sleep and blood oxygen tracking capabilities, says the WSJ, to one day be able to detect sleep apnea, a condition that causes people to stop breathing during sleep. Sleep disorders are complicated, and diagnostic sleep studies involve multiple types of monitoring throughout the night. For that feature to work, Apple would probably need to figure out the best times to take blood oxygen readings – leaving the sensor on all night will drain the battery pretty quickly.
Apple also reportedly plans to seek FDA approval for existing Watch features, such as heart rhythm tracking for people with irregular heart rhythms and alerts for drops in blood oxygen levels. Current FDA approval for the watch’s ECG function does not include use by people with diagnosed cardiac arrhythmias such as atrial fibrillation, and the watch’s blood oxygen monitor is not approved as a medical device.
One of the most advanced features Apple continues to study, according to the WSJ, is monitoring blood sugar levels and detecting diabetes. Apple has been trying to develop non-invasive glucose monitoring for years and has reportedly not had much success.
The anonymous sources provided by the WSJ be warned that many of the features under consideration “might never be rolled out to consumers”. Advances in health technology and its regulatory approval require years of development and testing. As much as companies are eager to add a slew of health features to wearables — and while wearables are more commonly used in medical research — they’re still not advanced enough to replace them. conventional diagnostic tools.