The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has approved a few days ago a patent from Fitbit for an intelligent blood pressure monitor. The device would have some novel characteristics such as the ability to automatically identify the user, alert when ideal conditions for taking a reading are present and more.
Up to date, Fitbit has not strayed very far from the wrist. For more than a decade the company has churned out a steady line of fitness trackers and smarwatches. As far as health, its smart scales are the only other product that is not wrist-based.
A patent filed in late 2021 but only made public on May 19th by the USPTO (patent number 11,179,049), shows that Fitbit is flirting with broading its product portfolio. The paperwork details a traditional looking blood pressure cuff that has some intelligent functionality built-in.
Perhaps the company is losing patence and does not see blood pressure from the wrist arriving in the near future. Whatever the case, the USPTO filing describes an intelligent oscillometric blood pressure measurement device that works from the upper arm.
Fitbit’s blood pressure monitor would have some clever smarts
The difference between Fitbit’s and traditional blood pressure monitors would be down to the intelligent ability of the former. For example, Fitbit’s cuff would have the ability to automatically determine the identity of the user. This could be done in one of a number of ways. The blood pressure device could link up to the closest Fitbit device or a smartphone with the Fitbit app to determine the identity. Or it might use biometric data gathered from wrist sensors to figure out who is taking the blood pressure measurement.
This could then enable the cuff to customize or identify an inflation profile for the cuff for that particular user. A customized profile could, in theory, result in improvements to the speed of inflation of the cuff reducing the overall time needed to take a reading. This could also reduce instances of unnecessarily high cuff pressure.
Automatically identifying the user also has another benefit. It would allow the device to upload data to your Fitbit account without you having to do anything.
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In some implementations, the cuff would identify when ideal conditions are present for taking a blood pressure measurement. Food intake, caffeine consumption, body posture, physical acitivites and more can all influence readings. Traditional devices do not adequatly address these factors.
By tapping into data from connected Fitbit wearables, the cuff might detect that you have recently engaged in a physical activity that might cause your blood pressure reading to temporarily fluctuate. The device could let the user know the conditions for taking a blood pressure reading are not ideal. It could then let the person know when the effect of the physical activity has subsided.
According to the patent, there could also be the potential to build other sensors into the blood pressure cuff. For example, the presence of an accelerometer could help filter out motion artifact when taking a reading, check on posture and device orientation. All this could ensure accuracy of blood pressure measurements.
It makes perfect sense
At first glance, a traditional Fitbit-branded cuff might seem strange. However, when you factor in all the intelligent capabilities that could be built it, such a device does make sense.
Other companies such as Withings and Omron have already gone down this route. We are not expecting blood pressure readings to become a standard stable of wrist-based devices at least for another year. Probably longer. Fitbit does not currently sync such data with other brands so it is an important gap. At one time you could input the info manually into your Fitbit account but they took that away.
In order for a person to have a holistic view of their health, a Fitbit-branded device that you can use to occasionally take readings and sync to your account makes perfect sense. The company could sell a blood pressure monitor that is part of the integrated Fitbit solution – similar to the Aria scale.
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