While many smartwatches and trackers can measure heart rate, most do not really have a medical purpose beyond familiarizing yourself with a baseline. Even Apple Watch Series 4 comes with many warnings about its ECG and atrial fibrillation features. But Omron's HeartGuide smartwatch is the first portable to measure blood pressure from the wrist ̵
The technology of HeartGuide is quite impressive. Below the ribbon is a cuff inflated to measure systolic and diastolic pressure via the oscillometric method. Basically, the same technique is used on your doctor, where they strap and inflate a cuff on the arm, apart from much less. I must try a demo of the device recently and I have to say that I am using HeartGuide is simple, short and definitely less painful than what the nurse does to me on my annual physics – it even seemed to match the results I usually get!
To test you, just press a button, hold your hand over your heart and the cuff automatically blows and deflates on your own. Once done, you can see a reading of the blood pressure on the screen. If it's in a healthy selection, you'll see a green circle. If your blood pressure is too high, the border will turn red.
The only thing I found a bit difficult in the demo was the fit. My wrist is on the smaller side, so it was difficult to get a proper fit with a medium sized device. Omron says that the media will fit around 75 percent of users, and that small and big versions will eventually be released for the rest of us.
Omron's main business has always been blood pressure testing devices, but designing a meant to be worn all of the time presented some challenges. First of all, the tape must be inflexible, and some pumps inside must push air directly downwards, or you risk inaccurate measurements. Also, miniaturizing the oscillometric method to take care of a wrist demanded Omron to submit more than 80 patents, and CEO Randy Kellogg claimed that some of the proprietary pumps, valves and chips in the device are less than a grain grain. 19659008] Illustration: Omron Healthcare
All this is considered, the estimated battery life of HeartGuide is surprisingly long. Omron gave me a conservative two-day estimation, but said that you could get 30-50 blows from a single charge. Finally Omron said that it should be translated to charge about 1-2 times a week. Helps it is HeartGuide's translucent display. Although it is able to color and be easy to read in direct sunlight, it will not be as bright as the OLED or AMOLED screen you usually see in touchscreen smartwatches.
Apart from blood pressure, HeartGuide can also follow the steps, distance, sleep and calories burned. It is also expected to handle call, text and email alerts. And since data without context is not particularly useful, HeartGuide comes with an app. The plan is that the app will provide insight into your blood pressure in relation to sleep quality, activity level and other lifestyle habits like how much coffee you drink.
But most impressive is that HeartGuide has 510k FDA clearance, which means it should be as accurate as another blood pressure testing device that's already available. Unlike the 30 days Apple needed for the FDA's de novo classification, HeartGuide had to undergo two years of trial and case studies. And that's what makes it an interesting counterpoint to Apple Watch Series 4.
Series 4 is not intended to be used by anyone who has already been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. It is meant to notify you that you may have Afib. Meanwhile, HeartGuide is a smartwatch intended to help people who already know that they have high blood pressure. "People who buy this clock most likely have already gone to their doctor and been diagnosed with high blood pressure," Kellogg told me. Basically, this is a smartwatch that is actually useful for your parents and grandparents.
At $ 500 it's not exactly cheap. But in terms of the tool itself, it appears to be a more thoughtful health module than Apple Watch. Blood pressure is as much of a silent killer as atrial fibrillation. According to the American Heart Association, 103 million adults in the United States have high blood pressure – almost half of the adult population. When you consider that blood pressure tends to fluctuate throughout the day, it does not paint a comprehensive picture on a single spot reading at the doctor's office or at the pharmacy. Giving patients with high blood pressure a way to easily and accurately monitor how their lifestyle affects your reading can be a gamechanger.
We want to know more about how accurate and how long battery life actually lasts when we consider it next year. But for now, the device is available for pre-order on Omron's website. It will be officially launched on CES on 8 January.