Blood pressure monitor won't arrive for Apple Watch before 2024 – report

Plus: Watchdog approves Fitbit's algorithm for detecting a dodgy ticker


While Apple engineers continue adding health-related features to its smartwatch range, its blood-pressure monitoring system won't be ready until 2024 at the earliest, it is reported.

Early tests show the iGiant's Watch sensor and software technology to determine whether a wearer has high blood pressure or not isn't very reliable, Bloomberg first reported. Apple has been working on this feature for at least four years, though it probably won't ship on any devices soon – not until 2024 or later, it seems.

The blood-pressure tracking isn't very detailed. Unlike proper medical monitors, the Apple Watch feature won't be able to measure systolic and diastolic readings, the two numbers that estimate the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats and rests. Instead, it will reportedly only be able to tell if one's blood pressure seems normal or high enough that users will be prompted to double-check their results using a normal blood pressure monitor or see a doctor for potential hypertension. 

The Register has asked Apple for comment.

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Another highly anticipated feature is the ability to measure blood glucose levels using non-invasive methods. Standard techniques typically involve pricking the skin to draw blood to test in a glucose meter, though the Apple Watch will not do this. It's not clear when blood glucose monitoring will be available, however. 

Other capabilities that are expected to arrive sooner on the Apple Watch include a body-temperature sensor, more detailed breakdowns of irregular heartbeat measurements, and a new low-power mode.

In other news, the FDA – a US watchdog that among other things regulates medical devices – just approved Fitbit's photoplethysmography algorithm to detect atrial fibrillation, aka fast, erratic heartbeats. Individuals afflicted with the condition are at a higher risk of stroke. The algorithm will allow the Google-owned biz to implement a new feature in its watches and health app that will detect a user's heart rhythm in the background, and alert them if the software detects signs of atrial fibrillation. 

A group of 455,699 participants were enrolled in a study to evaluate the algorithm's performance over five months. The results showed the system was able to detect atrial fibrillation correctly about 98 percent of the time. 

"The Fitbit PPG-based algorithm and Irregular Heart Rhythm Notifications feature will soon be available to consumers in the US across a range of heart-rate enabled devices." Fitbit confirmed this week. "We want to make AFib detection as accessible as possible to help reduce the risk of potentially life-threatening events — like stroke — and ultimately improve overall heart health for everyone. ®

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