What you need to know
- Fitbit discusses the work that it's doing to improve ECG's and make them more useful on wearables.
- With its new PPG technology, Fitbit aims to bring continuous heart rhythm tracking.
- There is currently no timeline for when the technology will reach wearables.
When the Fitbit Sense launched in August, it was without the ECG functionality. It was still a great smartwatch without it, as noted in our Fitbit Sense review, but the feature was finally approved and added in October, cementing the Fitbit Sense as one of the best Android smartwatches available today. The ECG app allows the watch to analyze the rhythm of your heart to check for cardiac problems like atrial fibrillation (AFib). It hasn't been very long since the feature was enabled, but Fitbit is already working on ways to greatly improve the technology.
The company spoke with Wearable on a new PPG technology that is currently in clinical trial testing. The technology is meant to supplement the existing ECG tech by allowing continuous monitoring of your heart rhythm. As it stands, for the Fitbit Sense to read your heart rhythm, you have to trigger the feature each time by opening the ECG app and placing your fingers on the corners. Sensors on the frame within tandem with the biosensor core on the Fitbit Sense to record signals from your heart.
The benefit of constant readings from the new PPG technology is that a wearable could monitor your heart rhythm while you sleep, and alert you of any abnormalities when you awake. Fitbit's Director of Research Algorithms, Dr. Conor Heneghan, sees a lot of benefit in this type of continuous readings:
It can let you know if these events happen during sleep when you're least aware of it, and then, for example, if it is picking up things, you could confirm that with an ECG. I think the combination of [ECG and PPG] is really going to bring value to that segment. ECG on wearables is a super high value for a small segment. It is probably going to be more advantageous to our users over 50 than 20 - 25-year-olds but we're trying to build something for everybody.
Henegan states that clinical trials are finishing up for the technology, but there's currently no timeline as to when it will arrive on wearables.
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