Fitbit just lately filed a patent utility (pdf) for a force-sensitive show that will allow blood stress readings on wearables. However even when patents did assure success — which they don’t — the previous few months make it exhausting to be assured in the way forward for Fitbit smartwatches.
First issues first, you shouldn’t learn too exhausting into any patent submitting. Whereas it can provide you a way of what an organization’s engaged on, it’s a authorized instrument for firms to successfully name dibs on a specific innovation. Within the claims part of this submitting (through Wareable), Fitbit outlines a force-sensitive display screen mixed with a photoplethysmography (PPG) sensor that, when pressed, can estimate your blood stress.
What’s neat about this idea is that it’s basically riffing on the normal blood stress cuff. These work by chopping off blood stream in an artery. That stress is then slowly relieved, which helps docs work out when blood stream begins up once more (systolic studying) and when your coronary heart relaxes once more (diastolic studying). Excessive numbers generally is a signal your coronary heart is working too exhausting to pump blood by way of your physique.
Fitbit’s patent proposes a force-sensitive panel that, when pressed, might set off a blood stress studying. Picture: WIPO IP Portal
It’s not significantly shocking that blood stress can be on Fitbit’s radar. It’s removed from the primary wearable to incorporate this characteristic. Samsung’s had it on its Galaxy Watches for fairly a while, although it makes use of a unique mechanism that requires periodic calibration to a conventional cuff and is unavailable within the US for regulatory causes. There’s additionally the Omron Coronary heart Information — an FDA-cleared smartwatch the place the strap doubles as an inflatable cuff.
Nevertheless, there’s new momentum for cuffless, noninvasive blood stress wearables that use PPG sensors. Valencell, which develops biometric sensor tech, confirmed up at CES 2023 with a cuffless and calibration-less fingertip blood stress monitor. Final 12 months, Movano Well being — which additionally confirmed up at CES with a wise ring — introduced it accomplished useful testing for a radio frequency-enabled chip that would doubtlessly measure each blood stress and blood glucose in wearables.
Fitbit’s patent is cool, however its previous couple of months have been lackluster. Its newest smartwatches, the Sense 2 and Versa 4, took a again seat to Google’s Pixel Watch. Plus, options out there on earlier iterations of the watches — like third-party apps and Google Assistant — vanished. Google additionally rebranded the corporate as “Fitbit by Google” and just lately introduced that in a number of years, Fitbit customers must log in utilizing their Google accounts. Simply this week, Fitbit skilled a number of server outages that left customers pissed off and indignant. Altogether, it doesn’t paint a reasonably image.
That’s why it’s exhausting to have a look at this type of patent submitting as an thrilling improvement. If granted, it’s extra more likely to seem in a Pixel Watch than any Fitbit by Google product. And that’s if this characteristic even sees the sunshine of day any time quickly. Whereas know-how strikes quick, well being tech certain as hell doesn’t. Wearable tech firms normally veer towards “wellness” options as a result of they don’t require regulatory oversight from the FDA. Blood stress, nevertheless, would seemingly necessitate the FDA’s involvement.
At finest, this submitting is simply additional proof that noninvasive blood stress tech is one thing that wearable firms deeply care about. However when and in what kind is unimaginable to foretell. It’s additionally a reminder that whereas dreaming up life-changing well being tech is straightforward, it’s a lot more durable to make it a actuality. By the point we see widespread wearable blood stress tech, Fitbit may already be a distant reminiscence.