FDA approves first medical accessory for the Apple Watch—an EKG sensor

Enlarge (credit: YouTube, AliveCor)

Plenty of studies boast about the medical possibilities of the Apple Watch, but Apple's wearable is a consumer device, not a medical one. However, the FDA just announced the approval of the first medical Apple Watch accessory, AliveCor's KardiaBand, which uses the wearable's heart rate technology and an attached sensor to provide EKG readings on the fly. An Apple Watch paired with a KardiaBand could provide users an EKG reading in 30 seconds, detecting abnormal heart rhythm and atrial fibrillation and sending that information to a doctor for further analysis.

The $199 device is an unassuming black band that attaches to the Apple Watch like other band accessories. On the band right below the Apple Watch module is the KardiaBand's silver sensor where users place their finger to take a reading. The Apple Watch's display shows the reading's data using a line graph that's similar to how the Apple Watch shows other heart rate data, and informs the user if their heart rate is normal or abnormal.

AliveCor's new SmartRhythm technology takes a more personalized approach to the prevention technology the Apple Watch already has. Currently, Apple's wearable can alert you when your heart rate spikes, but SmartRhythm uses AliveCor's deep neural network and your history of heart rate data to determine a healthy and normal heart rate range for you in relation to your activity levels. If an abnormality is detected during the Apple Watch's continuous measurement of your heart rate, AliveCor and KardiaBand's app will prompt you to take an EKG reading. The Watch's display will then show the normal heart rate range that KardiaBand's technology estimated for you, the abnormal heart rate detected, and where the EKG reading falls in relation to that data.

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