The Apple Watch is already equipped with some useful features related to keeping the user alive. The timepiece has already saved lives with its heart rate monitor, electrocardiograph (ECG) sensor, and Apple Watch fall detection system. And the Apple Watch Series 6 is rumored to add a pulse oximeter that measures the amount of oxygen in the user's blood. A reading between 95% and 100% is considered to be good and means that blood is being pumped efficiently throughout the body.
The Apple Watch is becoming more useful to those worried about contracting COVID-19
A pulse oximeter can also help find those patients with "silent hypoxia;" these people have an extremely low O2 saturation reading but yet they show no discomfort or problems breathing. This could be an indication of severe COVID-19-related pneumonia which would require a ventilator. Apple is quickly trying to make the world's number one watch more useful to those who are worried about contracting the virus.
For example, a new feature in watchOS 7 will help Apple Watch users fight COVID-19. For example, if you're washing your hands and try to slip away from the sink before the suggested 20 seconds is up, a reminder will appear on the watch along with some haptic feedback telling you to keep on scrubbing. Interestingly, Apple had been working on this feature even before coronavirus became a household word. Apple VP of Technology Kevin Lynch spoke with TechCrunch and revealed that the handwashing feature took years to perfect. Using the microphone and the accelerometer, the watch knows when the user is washing his or her hands by listening for the sound of water running. As a backup in case the volume of the water leaving the sink's faucet is too low, the watch will listen for the sound of squishy soap. It should be noted that Samsung actually was the first to add a handwashing app to its smartwatch, beating Apple to the punch.
Sumbul Ahmad Desai, Apple's VP of Health, says, "While we haven't studied specifically how Apple Watch can track COVID, we're happy to support the research the medical community is doing. Back in May, Stanford University announced that it was testing whether data from wearable devices could provide early warnings about infectious diseases including COVID-19. But don't expect any quick answers; the test will run for up to 24 months. Participants don't get paid, but are spending only two minutes a day to fill out a daily survey. Among the data being collected is a person's heart rate, skin temperature, and blood oxygen saturation. This study is looking at other wearable devices besides the Apple Watch including wearables made by Fitbit.
There is a third-party app for the Apple Watch that uses the device's heart rate monitor to determine whether the device owner has an infection such as COVID-19. The app, created by
Cardiogram; looks for the differences in a person's heart rate at rest and while sleeping that is indicative of an infection. The firm's co-founder, Johnson Hsieh, said that "Cardiogram's new Sleeping BPM feature can help users become more aware of how their body is responding to symptoms of the flu or other illnesses including COVID-19."
Apple is reportedly continuing to look at other health-related features for the Apple Watch including sensors that will be able to measure a user's blood pressure and blood glucose levels. The latter would be a home run for Apple if it can pull it off. A person's blood glucose measures the amount of sugar in their blood. Insulin-dependent diabetics test themselves multiple times daily to determine the dose of insulin they need before a meal. This is currently accomplished by drawing a small drop of blood from a finger and putting it on an expensive test strip which is already inserted into a glucometer. If Apple can replace the costly test strips by using sensors placed inside the Apple Watch, it could save diabetics a ton of money and a lot of pain.