We are edging closer to the day when blood pressuring with a smartwatch will be a normal thing. One of the first entrants in this market is Swiss startup Aktiia. It has just started selling it’s wrist-based optical Blood Pressure Monitor (BMP) in the UK.
Essential reading: Top smart blood pressure monitors
Many adults are affected by hypertension, but as many as one in three can be unaware of a problem. They feel the odd twinge or headache, but simply put this down to feeling a little under the weather. And this is the paradox of the condition and the reason high blood pressure is sometimes called the silent killer.
Home BPMs can be quite useful. Taking regular measurements is particularly important as you get older, as the effects of an unhealthy lifestyle can build up over time.
Whether they are smart or traditional, BPMs typically come in one two forms – those for the upper arm, and those for the wrist. Both employ inflatable cuff technology, although blood pressure measurements taken at the wrist may be less accurate. That is because the wrist arteries are narrower and not as deep under your skin as those of the forearm.
This is all well and good and works fairly well. But we have yet to see a company come up with a fitness tracker or smartwatch that can do this. There is lots of stirring in this area, though, and Samsung is perhaps taking the lead. Some of its watches have this ability. However they do not serve as a true replacements for traditional measurement cuffs.
Then there is, of course, the Omron HeartGuide. But this is a watch-sized sphygmanometer so does not use optical sensors. Omron has filed more than 80 new patents to create the thing.
The Aktiia system uses common optical sensors and proprietary algorithms to measure an individual’s blood pressure at the wrist. It works by analyzing the changing diameter of the arteries with each heartbeat.The monitoring is continuous so users can see how their blood pressure changes at different times of the day.
In the box is also a cuff is used for initialization and calibration once per month. The wearable has battery life of 9 days so doesn’t need charging often. Simply wear it as you would any fitness tracker and go about your day.
The results can be viewed in the accompanying smartphone app. This allows you to see daily, weekly and monthly trends and share a PDF with your doctor.
With 5 clinical trials, 1 million measurements to date and the stamp of approval from CE – the watch can be purchased now by those living in the UK. It costs £159.99 at the moment, but will revert to its regular price of £199.99 soon. Estimated ship date according to the website is March.
Pre-orders also include ongoing access to the Aktiia 24/7 Monitoring Service. This normally runs at £8.99 per month. If you live outside the UK you can join the waitlist on the website.
Fitness trackers and smartwatches can count steps, calories, distance and heart rate, but its fair to say its been a while since we’ve seen something truly new on the sensor front. Blood pressure, glucose, sweat and hydration sensors are all good candidates. The commercialization of these new sensors and integration into the likes of Fitbit, Garmin and Apple will, no doubt, reinvigorate interest from existing and new customers.
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