Apple made a bold move in health technology during a special product event Wednesday, announcing that Apple Watch Series 4 will follow abnormal cardiac activity. The content of Apple Watch competitor Fitbit fell more than five percent after the news.
The new features are already approved by the FDA, making Apple Watch one of the first consumer units with FDA clearance for medical purposes. The approval opens the door for Apple to explore other medical applications of the clock, like tracking sleep disorders. Apple's leader Jeff Williams, head of the company's Apple Watch effort, announced from the scene that Apple Watch will track things like atrial fibrillation or abnormal heart rhythms, giving consumers access to a 24-hour tracker to follow heart problems.
The data is stored in the Apple Watch app and can be shared with the user's doctor via PDF. Apple did not provide information about how the data can be transferred to medical professionals.
The clock will also detect when a user has dropped and let them call emergency contacts directly from the device.
"Capturing meaningful data about a person's heart in real time changes the way we practice medicine," said Dr. Ivor Benjamin, a cardiologist and president of the American Heart Association, from the stage. "I'm inspired by the life-saving potential of technology."
Normally, this type of heart data is only measurable by an electrocardiogram test performed at a medical office. However, many symptoms of heart problems come and go, making it difficult for doctors to grasp patient health.
Atrieflimmer is a perfect use case. The problem increases the risk of stroke and heart failure, but comes and goes as a patient moves through his daily life. It can not be requested at a doctor's office or during a scan.
There are some portable ECG sensors on the market, like AliveCor's KardiaBand and the portable CardeaSolo ECG screen, manufactured by Kirkland, Wash.-based Cardiac Insight. However, these devices are specialized ECGs and do not offer functions outside of cardiac monitoring.
Williams said that the new features will be available to customers in the US later this year, and will only be available on Apple Watch Series 4, also announced on Wednesday's event. Series 4 will be available for pre-order on Friday and will be sent to consumers on September 21st.
The basic model comes with a GPS and will cost $ 399. Another model, with built-in mobile features, will cost $ 499.