Image source: Withings

Withings confirms it is working on HRV functionality for Scanwatch

Withings has confirmed on one of its support threads that it is working on heart rate variability (HRV) functionality for Scanwatch.

The response to one of the Withing’s forum posts actually came a couple of months ago. But it has received no press coverage, probably because few people spotted it. We only found it today.

Here’s what one of the company’s support staff had to say.

Thank you for creating this thread and for your interest in the Heart Rate Variability feature. I am happy to tell you that this has reached our developers’ ears and that we have recently started to work on the HRV for ScanWatch!  We will require some time to release it to ensure the quality of functionality. However, I will keep you updated and share the good news with you once it is available.

This will be available via a future firmware update to all Scanwatch owners. Considering that it has been 3 months since the above response, the feature could land soon.

The device was recently made available for purchase in the US after a lengthy approval process from the FDA. It has been available in Europe for a couple of years now.


Withings has altered course on HRV

The last time we heard anything on this subject was back in May 2021. An interview with Withings scientists had, at the time, revealed the French outfit had no immediate plans to introduce HRV to its watches and sleep trackers.

That info came 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 that 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.

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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.” They went on to say that this is something that is also possible on their sleep tracking mat.

But, Withings adds, 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.

The company has obviously changed course and Scanwatch will be getting the HRV metric. No word yet on whether the company’s sleep tracking mat will get it as well.

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 might 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 adds HRV to the plethora of metrics it spits out each morning.


Automatic activity detection, SpO2 and more

That 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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