WSJ: Apple plans new sleep tracking features, blood pressure tech, and more for future Apple Watch
Blood pressure tech
While a report yesterday erroneously suggested the Apple Watch Series 7 could feature blood pressure monitoring capabilities, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman refuted that possibility in a post on Twitter. As such, the Apple Watch Series 7 is not expected to feature any new health sensors, with the focus instead being on a new design and faster processor.
The Wall Street Journal reports today, however, that Apple still has long-term health ambitions for the wearable, including blood pressure monitoring — but without specific numbers. Again, this feature is not expected to make the cut for the Apple Watch Series 7 this year.
The version of the feature under discussion at Apple would try to show users how their blood pressure is trending, but without providing a baseline measure of systolic and diastolic blood pressure, according to people familiar with these plans. Some employees have raised questions to managers about how useful such a feature would be, the people said, though they cautioned that the feature is still in development and could change.
Long term, Apple is also reportedly studying a “cuffless blood-pressure device, which is theorized as a device that could give a blood-pressure reading without inflating.”
More advanced sleep tracking
For the Apple Watch Series 8, Apple is said to be investing new sleep tracking features, including the ability to detect advanced sleep patterns and sleep apnea. These features would help the Apple Watch better compete with the latest wearables from companies like Fitbit.
One challenge for Apple in terms of expanding sleep tracking capabilities, however, is battery life. Apple is said to be investigating ways to read data from sensors overnight with as big of an effect on battery life.
Apple is also studying a watch feature that might detect diabetes, the report says. The company is said to be “struggling” with this process, however, and has not made much progress on the efforts over recent years.
This isn’t the first time it has been reported that Apple is studying ways to monitor blood glucose with Apple Watch. Various reports over the years have suggested that Apple is developing a non-invasive glucose monitoring technology, with one report in 2017 indicating that Tim Cook has been seen actively wearing a glucose tracker prototype on his body around Apple’s campus.
Today’s report also adds that Apple is working with the National University of Singapore on a research project to offer “lifestyle coaching for pre-diabetics who wear more invasive blood-glucose monitoring devices from other companies.”
As previously reported by Bloomberg, the Apple Watch Series 8 could feature support for taking a person’s temperature. This would require a new sensor to be added to the Apple Watch. “A planned use for the sensor in 2022 would be for fertility planning, the people said, giving women clues about where they are in their ovulation cycle,” the WSJ report explains.
In the future, Apple reportedly hopes that this. feature could be used to detect fevers, but it’s unclear if that would be available from the start.
Updates to existing features
Finally, the Wall Street Journal reports that Apple is pushing the FDA to approve updates to existing capabilities of the Apple Watch.
Separately, Apple wants the FDA to sign off on updates to existing watch features. One such update would allow people diagnosed with the irregular heart rhythm known as atrial fibrillation, or AFib, to use the watch feature designed to track that condition, according to the documents and people familiar with the plans. Another would allow the company to alert users if their blood-oxygen level drops, people familiar with the issue said. Today the blood-oxygen sensor provides a reading, but doesn’t alert users, and the AFib feature can only be used by people who say they don’t have that condition.
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