by Byron Connolly

New smartwatch detects arrhythmia and sleep apnea risk

Jan 09, 2020
Computers and Peripherals

ScanWatch unveiled at CES in Las Vegas

Credit: Withings

French consumer electronics firm, Withings, has launched what it claims is the first clinically validated smartwatch to detect a user’s risk of heart arrhythmia (AFib) and sleep apnea.

Unveiled at this year’s CES in Las Vegas, ScanWatch was developed by cardiologists and sleep experts and helps users and their doctors identify prevalent and largely underdiagnosed cardiovascular and sleep issues early.

The company said that nearly one billion adults worldwide suffer from obstructive sleep apnea and research shows that atrial fibrillation will reach epidemic proportions worldwide in the coming decade.

AFib is the main form of irregular heart rhythm that is often underdiagnosed as it can be intermittent and easily missed if symptoms are not occurring during infrequent doctor’s visits.

The A$479 watch can detect if a user has AFib or if their heart rhythm is slow, high or normal thanks to its ability to take a ‘medical grade’ electrocardiogram (ECG) on-demand, as well as a heart scanning feature.

The company said that since AFib symptoms are irregular or may not be known to users, the watch offers a new early warning detection capability. Using an embedded sensor, the device can continuously monitor heart rate, which allows it to alert users to a potential issue even if they don’t feel palpitations. When the watch detects an irregular heartbeat through its heart rate sensor, it will prompt the user via its display to take an ECG reading.

Withings said when users do experience symptoms or have been alerted of an abnormal heart rate, they can easily take an ECG through three built in electrodes by touching both sides of the bezel.

During the measurement, users can see the live electrocardiogram displayed on the watch screen or in the accompanying Health Mate app.

Once the reading is complete, the results can be viewed directly on the watch screen and in the app. A history of all recordings, their associated classifications and any noted comments or symptoms are stored in the app. 

For the first time, the watch can detect the presence of a night sleep apnea episode through an Sp02 sensor that emits and absorbs a light wave passing through blood vessels. During the night, it measures oxygen saturation levels to identify when levels are inadequate due to breathing disturbances such as sleep apnea.

It also provides monitoring and analysis of sleep patterns including the length, depth and quality of sleep. Each morning, users can access their Sleep Score in the Health Mate app that is based on sleep duration, depth regularity and interruptions.

The watch includes an activity monitor that tracks parameters such as steps, calories, elevation, workout routes (via connected GPS) and can automatically recognise daily activities such as walking, running, swimming and cycling. It also includes fitness level assessments through an indicator called VO2 Max, which measures and muscles ability to convert oxygen into energy during physical exercise.

Withings told CIO Australia that it shares the data collected from these devices with its network of doctors and healthcare professionals to develop new technologies and track the health of users. The company said it processes users’ personal data in compliance with applicable privacy and personal data laws.