At 10 AM PDT, Wednesday 12th September, Tim Cook, CEO, Apple entered the stage at Steve Jobs Theatre in Cupertino to unveil the company’s newest products to an eager audience. The first of these was the Apple Watch Series Four, the fourth generation of Apple Watch with a sleeker design, a larger display screen, more emphasis on visuals and detail, and better communications and activity features (you can read a complete breakdown of the Apple Watch Series 4 here).
Looking out for your heart…and catching your fall
The Apple Watch, from the very beginning, has had in-built fitness and health features. It measures the number of calories you burn; it monitors your heartbeat, it tells you when you have been sitting for too long; it tells you how much exercise you have done in a day; it can even tell you if you have been drinking enough water. “Health and fitness is at the core of Apple Watch,” said Jeff Williams, COO, Apple, while presenting the fourth generation Watch. The new series, apart from having better designed and faster features goes up several notches (pun totally unintended) by including an accelerometer and gyroscope, which are able to detect falls, and contact the emergency numbers. It includes an electrical heart rate center that can take an electrocardiogram, using a new ECG app which has been granted a De Novo classification by the FDA. The ECG app will be coming out later this year and will be available only in the USA (for now).
According to their own website, “the app has electrodes built into the Digital Crown, which enables users to receive a heart rhythm classification. It can detect signs of Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) and heart failure. All recordings get stored in the Health app which can then be shared with doctors.” Here is the De Novo clearance letter obtained from FDA.
For fall detection, the feature uses a next-generation accelerometer and gyroscope, which measures up to 32 g-forces, along with custom algorithms to identify when hard falls occur. If Apple Watch senses immobility for 60 seconds after the notification, it will automatically call emergency services and send a message along with the location to emergency contacts.
“The most exciting thing Apple announced”
These two key additions are already creating a buzz. CBS News quotes tech analyst Patrick Moorhead, president of Moor Insights and Strategy predicting the new Apple Watch “will sell better than all previous models”, Because of its health features, he could “..see kids buying one for their parents and grandparents.”
Slate called this “the most exciting thing Apple announced,” further saying “This is a huge step for wearables, and a positive move at a time when so much of the tech world feels like it’s harming society these days.” CNBC said Apple could be targeting baby boomers with their health and fitness features.
Statistics from August 2017 show that the US mobile health (mHealth) market was valued at USD 4.19 billion in 2016 and has been projected to grow at a CAGR of 44.2% over the forecast period. Mobile health is the practice of using a smartphone to track one’s well being, anticipated to improve outcome and lifestyle.
For a market that is growing, these features in wearables will matter more and more. It would be interesting to see if the ECG feature becomes available in other parts of the globe. The “intelligent health guardian”, as Jeff Williams describes it, should be a global term, shouldn’t it?