Image source: Withings

Withings has no immediate plans to introduce HRV, but there is a workaround

An interview with Withings scientists has revealed the French outfit has no immediate plans to introduce HRV to its watches and sleep trackers. But there is a workaround.

The info comes from a Youtube interview published by Rob ter Horst, better known as The Quantified Scientist. As a part of a series of interviews, he spoke to Maximu Dumont (Product Manager for Scanwatch – and more generally for all Withings watches), Romain Kirszenblat (Applied Research Team at Withings – they look at the sensor part of the products) and Paul Edouard (Data Scientist at Withings). The trio is a part of much larger teams at Withings consisting of dozens of people.


Heart rate variability (HRV)

In this episode Rob first spoke to the team about heart rate and HRV. It was interesting to learn that Withings uses the Polar H10 heart rate monitor in assessing the heart rate accuracy of its health gear. This is our go-to device as well, along with the Polar OH1. The later, in particular, is convenient for accurate statistics on your ticker both on land and in water.

Essential readingTop fitness trackers and health gadgets

Withings scientists spoke about heart rate variability (HRV). This is a metric that measures the irregularity of intervals between heart beats. Higher values indicate better stress resilience and health. This is a metric that is often used as an indicator of readiness to train. If you are stressed or fatigued, your HRV values will fall.

Scanwatch displays a plethora of data but not HRV. According to the Withings staff, “the watch has the potential to measure HRV.” But it looks there are no plans to introduce this metric on the device. At least not in the immediate future.

They went on to say that this is something that is already possible on their sleep tracking mat. Unfortunately, once again, the functionality is unlikely to be switched on.

According to Withings, HRV values correlate closely with average sleep heart rate. So displaying HRV would be redundant. They suggest using your the sleep heart rate as a gauge of how rested you are for exercise. This is also a good way to assess your fitness – exercise regularly to decrease your sleep heart rate over time.

While this is all well and good, we’re not sure whether we agree entirely with this. While average sleep heart rate and resting heart rate are extremely useful as inticators of fatique, fitness and health, HRV would add another dimension. Even raw values with no interpretation would be nice.

It could be implemented as an add-on with the option to enable or disable in the account settings. As regular users of the Withings Sleep Analyzer, we really do hope the company reconsiders.


Automatic activity detection, SpO2 and more

The interview also touched on automatic detection of activity. On Scanwatch running is automatically detected by the watch itself, as the algorithms are fairly standard. For other activities – this is personalised for each user.

So for example if you tag an activity as tennis. The algorithms that sit on the Withings server will be updated with the info for your profile. So next time you play tennis the watch will see if the pattern fits – if it does it will mark the activity as tennis. In a sense, each user has their own unique profile as far as automatic activity detection.

Essential reading: Withings Scanwatch review – the best health tracking hybrid you can buy

One part of the discussion revolved around SpO2 readings. Withings suggests you press the watch when capturing a measurement to ensure it rests snugly against your wrist. This can help but as long as there is good contact between the sensor and the skin – it is not really necessary.

The rest of the interview was mostly about the accuracy of SpO2, what the company did to meet EU guidelines. Interestingly the accuracy of SpO2 is well within the range required by the FDA. However, no mention was made on when Scanwatch will receive approval for the US market.

You can check out the full interview below. Those considering whether to purchase Scanwatch can read our review on this link.

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