Analyst: Apple ‘iWatch’ to use optoelectronics to monitor heart rate, blood oxygen levels

“Apple may turn to optoelectronic sensor technology to help users of the company’s so-called “iWatch” keep track of their heart rate and blood oxygen saturation, according to a Friday report from China,” Shane Cole reports for AppleInsider.

“Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple was also considering the addition of blood glucose monitoring, but that feature is believed to have been scrapped due to the ‘inaccuracy’ of using optoelectronics for non-invasive blood glucose testing,” Cole reports. “Electronics industry analyst Sun Chang Xu made the predictions for China’s Electrical Engineering Times.”

“Broadly speaking, medical sensors using optoelectronics measure changes in light reflected by the body. An array of light-emitting diodes are used to pass light into tissue, and sensors detect the amount and color of the light that bounces back. Using optoelectronics for monitoring blood oxygen levels is a process known as pulse oximetry,” Cole reports. “Adding to the report’s plausibility, Apple has brought on multiple biomedical experts with expertise in optoelectronic pulse oximetry in recent weeks. New hires Marcelo Malini Lamego and Michael O’Reilly are former executives at pulse oximetry company Masimo Corporation.”

Read more in the full article here.

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32 Comments

    1. You have to consider the very large number of elderly in this country. A lot of health care involves monitoring. How many people live with high blood pressure and don’t have a clue. It’s the number one cause of stroke. My father was one of those people, and didn’t live to see his sixtieth birthday.

      And the fact, you don’t have to see a doctor for simple, yet life saving monitoring. With resources being spread thinner and thinner due to the high increases in elderly people and qualified medical professionals being in short supply, anything that can increase the productivity of medical workers is a very good thing.

      Like many new products like this, it will debut with a core set of practical monitoring capabilities. Over time, new features will be added. People have a way of taking new technology like this in new directions not initially seen in the product’s early stages. I think this is going to be a big winner for Apple.

      Apple is putting a lot of resources into its development. They’re obviously not rushing the product to market, which means they’re working hard to get it right out of the gate.

      I for one, look forward to this new product and to see how it contributes to society. Don’t overlook the fact that this will also do more than just monitor biological activity. Right now, only Apple knows all its features. Time will tell, I see another new successful product in Apple’s future as they once again redefine a new category in their product line.

          1. According to Hannah’s Birthday Rule, you may behave in accordance with the factorisation of your age. In this case, you have the choice of behaving as a three-year-old or as a young adult of nineteen, since 57 = 3 x 19. Have fun, whether it be a tantrum or a binge!

          2. I believe the baby boomer generation is hitting a critical age. If done right, they will sell tons of these.

            As for younger people, I’m 49 but have battled sleep apnea for 9 years and my son of 16 may also have it. I’m on a delux BiPAP but had suspicions that I’m still having trouble.

            Looked online for the smallest and cheapest blood ox sensor, found the CMS50F from Contec. A thick watch like piece for you wrist, then a small sensor for your fingertip that has a wire running to the watch part. Can monitor for 36 hours, then you need to download to a computer.

            Done a couple nights with it. The issues are rubber on sensor is so grabby that it does not slide well with sheets or blankets. Fix was some cloth tape to cover most of the rubber on the exterior.

            The watch part is not bad, mostly me getting used to wearing a watch again.

            Anyway, back to my point. Young healthy people may not need the health part but there is a bunch of chronically ill and older people that would love this. Now if it also ties into other apps on the iPhone, ala notifications, next appointment, todos.

            My favorite would be caller ID, name of recent text from, name of recent email from. A quick glance instead of getting the iPhone from a pocket, purse, case, etc to only look at it.

    2. Wrong. Absolutely wrong. The fourth computer paradigm is going to be wearable technology. If Apple’s focus is on health monitoring, starting with simple capabilities and adding more sophisticated functionality over the next 5-10 years, this will become a major product. The very idea of day-to-day monitoring of one’s health is very much in alignment with where many in society are already heading with respect to exercise, better eating, etc.

      I, personally, have no interest whatsoever in watches, but the name iWatch is a misnomer. It isn’t about telling time. That’ll just be one of many features.

      1. Yeah possibly it’s the iMonitor or iHealth. If they can also monitor blood sugar that would be a blessed day for every diabetic. Dr. McCoy’s Medical Tricorder in a wrist band would be a very valuable product indeed.

        1. If it can monitor blood sugar (along with 02 sat. and heart rate) it will be an invaluable asset to any serious athletes (and perhaps even not so serious athletes who just want to train smarter)

          Lets see older, younger, those with blood sugar issues, athletes and wannabe’s… yep I think we have at least 85% of the population covered in that list.

          1. Yep you got it. I’m just not sure how you’d do it without inserting a sensor under your skin. there is hope though. Just read this:

            “Now a team of German researchers has devised a novel, non-invasive way to make monitoring easier. Using infrared laser light applied on top of the skin, they measure sugar levels in the fluid in and under skin cells to read blood sugar levels.”

            That would be fantastic.

        2. The watch function quite frankly is a waste of time as most have moved on from worrying about time using a device on one’s wrist.

          The Health monitoring function is most critical aspect specially when the APIs will allow developers to build on it and come up with innovative new ways to help people live healthier lives.

          I hope the device can also measure one’s sleep pattern which means having to wear the device while sleep leaving little time for off arms charging.

          What such a device must absolutely have is a wireless charging system.

          Have a great president weekend…

      2. I am fervently hoping if we get enough signatures on a White House petition, we can get Obama Messiah to outlaw the word “paradigm.” It would instantly negate, in my eyes, his previous six years of criminal dumbassery.

        1. Actually, that’s Jonathan Swift, Voltaire brilliance. More people have gnashed their teeth at eggheads flipping around the word “paradigm” than have voted for Barack Obama. The word is a blot on human intelligence and is number one in global obfuscation and pretentiousness indexes. It received honourable mention in the Stuffed Shirt Awards ten years running, and the OED is considering declaring it a non word, something it hasn’t done since 1882 with “mealy-mouth”, over the objection of prominent politicians of the day.

            1. Not just you. The company I was at in the 90s used these buzz words all the time. I remember a Mac freeware program came out that would generate sentences based on a few pieces information you gave. Had some great laughs with that one.

    1. Agreed. Even if it’s not as precise as stick-and-test, a glucose score accurate within, say, 10 points would be a must-have for anyone with either Type I or Type II diabetes. I’d buy it in a heartbeat.

  1. Yes, ok, but will these be approved medical devices? Or just a consumer toy? I can already see the lawsuits when some sicko dies and the relatives blames apple for inaccurate readings or whatever, that caused their death. Tread lightly Apple, unless you are entering the medical market.

    1. I am sure the legalese in each iWatch sale will state Apple’s product is not the final say and consulting with one’s Doctor imperative as always. I think people will have to treat the device info more like a guide or warning.

    2. I don’t know. If you use a home blood pressure device, is the maker liable if they were getting false readings which lead to a stroke? I don’t recall ever seeing that type of thing. A simple warning to lead up with your doctor’s advice would seem to negate the possibility of a lawsuit. Apple has a very good team of lawyers, and I’m sure they’ll figure out how to cover their ass in such an event.

  2. Smart watches are never going to amount to anything big. Its only so big and it does little that a smart phone can’t duplicate. However, if you target this device as a primary a medical device with some smart features it will benefit many. It can serve as an add-on to the iPhone. This will be of benefit those living alone, elderly even athletes.

  3. As sensors get smaller and smaller, did you ever think that you could fit a ton of them in such a device. Other companies are making health sensors. Apple will take that and multiply it, making it a device you can’t live without or make it like the iPhone, and not realize you needed it till you got one. Steve Jobs once said ” You have to tell the consumer about these products and show them they need them” ( or something like that ). I for one am very curious about this. And again, as you know it will run on or along side iOS. They could even put sensors in that they don’t even have a need for, let a developer figure it out! Apple only has to make great hardware, thousands of developers are hungry to do the rest!

  4. I’m looking for the iWatch that read my blod gluc levels, my thyroxin, my whatever that those wonderful cystalls are able to measure under my skin, exactly where my iWatch is going to be, on my left wrist. I will buy another program that measures my whatever…. This is not the future, this is now. Just, this little iWatch in measuring my …. I want that, even though I’m too healthy to be measured, but for patients. That would be perfectl, almost……..

  5. As self centered as most Apple fanatics are it’s likely
    Apple secured some major ‘subsidizing’ with the big
    HMO and insurance companies, anticipating the huge
    wave of hypochondria that will sweep the nation.

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