In the near future, we may certainly be able to monitor the body’s internal workings with more comprehensive wearables. Such devices include Apple Watches, which have evolved from smartphone accessories into high-tech health monitors capable of checking for cardiac irregularities and incident detection. Following recently announced agreements with sensor producer Rockley Photonics, this may also include long-rumored blood pressure sensors, blood sugar, and hydration measurements.
Although a team of internal Apple engineers is working on integrating non-invasive blood sugar monitoring into smartwatches, the brand claims it has been exploring the possibility for many more years, and we’re yet to see it on an Apple Watch.
It has been reported that Rockley’s top customer since the beginning of 2019 is… Apple. Furthermore, a recent regulatory filing from the company indicates this fact. This year, it went public in a $1.2 billion deal with a special purpose acquisition company backed by global investment firm SIN Capital.
However, according to a press release from Rockley, the company’s customer list has expanded to include 12 major consumer electronics businesses and five medical device manufacturers since its ‘clinic-on-the-wrist’ sensor prototype was released in July of 2021. But, Rockley plans to continue relying on Apple for product development and delivery. By the end of 2022, Silicon Photonics expects to offer silicon photonics-powered sensors in consumer devices.
When will blood pressure sensors appear on the Apple Watch?
During the next two years, the company plans to develop and commercialize consumer wearables and mobile apps. Followed by medical devices in the healthcare space, then an AI analytics cloud platform. Rockley added that while its primary focus is consumer wellness, it intends to seek FDA medical clearances if necessary.
With its LED light-based sensors, Rockley’s fitness tracker works similarly to many other fitness trackers. But with less advanced circuitry for monitoring heart rates, body temperature, and oxygen saturation.
We suspect, on this basis, that it might not be long before the Apple Watch offers this feature. Perhaps the Apple Watch 8 will have the eagerly anticipated major upgrade feature we’ve been asking for? According to DigiTimes, Apple is developing short wavelength infrared sensors that could be used to measure blood sugar levels with the Apple Watch Series 8. Sadly, the reality is that the tech won’t be ready for a few years yet.
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A wearable device can certainly provide information about the core body temperature, blood pressure, body hydration, alcohol, lactate, glucose, and much more. Thanks to the company’s full-stack, digital health sensor system (the ‘clinic on the wrist’ we discussed).
Rather than invasive sensors requiring perforation of the skin for continuous monitoring, the technology uses optical sensors. Consequently, this allows for continuous, non-invasive monitoring of various biomarkers without percutaneous sensors.
Rockley’s sensor uses infrared spectrophotometers to monitor a considerably wider variety of biomarkers. Making wearable devices far more useful than previous devices that use green LEDs to measure heart rate. Using a laser generated by the sensor, it is certainly possible to look for particular components and physical phenomena in the blood, interstitial fluid, and dermis without invasively probing.
A wristband that houses Rockley’s full-stack sensing solution and communicates with an app will be introduced soon. Ready to use in a number of human studies. In contrast, the company noted that its sensor modules and associated reference designs, such as hardware and application firmware, will be available to other products available to the public.
Research into wearable blood pressure monitoring
40 participants participated in the latest in-house pilot research. Rockley sensors were compared to photoplethysmography devices or the green LEDs on the back of today’s popular smartwatches.
Using a wrist-worn device developed by Rockley Photonics, researchers were able to monitor a person’s blood pressure continuously without the need for an external cuff. Paving the way for further research into the technology. Including the technology for Apple Watches, among other devices.
According to the company’s claims, the laser-powered gadgets were more accurate than the LED lights when compared to blood pressure cuff readings. The Rockley platform’s estimations of heart rate variability were compared to those of typical ECG equipment, according to the company.
In order to evaluate the sensors’ efficacy in monitoring muscle lactate, glucose trends, and other metrics, more studies, including patients, diabetics, athletes, and the general public, are underway. Early experiments into estimating core body temperatures have been undertaken.
So, if Rockley can replicate the better link with a conventional blood pressure monitor in a bigger trial, it will be huge news for the wearable industry.
Samsung smartwatches now employ the PPG optical sensor to capture blood pressure measurements. However, the sensor needs cuff calibration to get the same level of accuracy as conventional monitors.
The Huawei Watch D (which recently debuted in China), features air-filled cuffs attached to the inside of the watchband.
Taking the cuff calibration out of the equation would be a significant step toward genuine wrist-based health monitoring.
Many wearable companies have already committed to providing non-invasive blood pressure monitoring. Fitbit and Zepp Health have already revealed to Wareable that they are interested in the technology.
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