While the Apple Watch is not equipped to measure blood pressure or quality of sleep, with the help of an algorithm to analyse data from the pedometer and the cardiofrequencemeter which are already integrated into the smart watch, it will now be able to diagnose cases of sleep apnoea and high blood pressure.
Although it is not fitted with instruments capable of measuring blood pressure or sleep rhythms, the Apple Watch could soon be used to help identify cases of sleep apnoea and high blood pressure in its users, thanks to artificial intelligence and in particular machine learning.
Apple Watch features boosted by an algorithm
This is the conclusion drawn by a study presented in Anaheim on 13 November as part of a conference run by the American Heart Association, as reported by Wired website. The authors of the study demonstrated that the cardiofrequencemeter and the pedometer which are part of the integrated functionalities of the Apple Watch can be used as a basis for predictions relating to blood pressure and sleep apnoea. For this to work, however, they need to be combined with the right algorithm, which in turn has its performance boosted by a system of machine learning.
Collaboration between a start-up and university researchers
This is exactly what a start-up by the name of Cardiogram and researchers at the University of California in San Francisco have been working on, with the latter using data collected from 6,000 Apple Watch owners who are participating in a study on connected and mobile health. The hi-tech specialists from Cardiogram meanwhile have developed DeepHeart, a system that can interpret and link data related to heart rates, steps taken and overall user health.
In May this year, the engineers and scientists had already managed to identify a risk of atrial fibrillation in an individual simply by analysing the information from their Apple Watch. More recently, the same teams perfected a method of detecting sleep apnoea with an accuracy rate of 90%, and high arterial blood pressure with an accuracy of 80%, all based solely on information from the smart watch collected over the course of a week.
Encourage the user to consult their doctor in the event of a problem
Cardiogram had already developed an app designed to manage and file heart rate data using the Apple Watch, and is now looking to add the functionalities made possible by its recent discoveries as soon as possible. In the long term, the application could alert users if an anomaly is detected and advise them to see a doctor to check the state of their heart or the quality of their sleep.
The hidden capabilities of Apple’s smart watch will be a boon for patients suffering from these particular conditions – and for those who are perhaps not yet aware that they do. While sleep apnoea and blood pressure problems can be precursors of symptoms which can lead to causes of death such as heart attacks, they often slip through the net when it comes to medical diagnoses.
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