The app and research study, developed by researchers at Johns Hopkins University's School of Medicine, uses the Apple Watch and the paired iPhone to allow epileptics to monitor and manage their condition. It collects data from both sensors and manual input, before, during and after epileptic seizures.
This data includes physiological changes such as heart rate (which can raise rapidly during seizures) and movement, via the Watch's accelerometer and gyroscope, and there is also a short memory game to test changes in responsiveness. EpiWatch is actually the first medical research app to include this kind of cognitive test.
The researchers are very keen to stress that users should not rely on the EpiWatch app when dealing with seizures - this is a research app that in this first phase is asking users to help to build a system that works. The Watch wearer will be able to see a custom complication on watch faces that launches the custom Watch app to capture the physiological information needed and also send an alert to a designated family member or friend.
The study appears to be US only - epilepsy affects over 2 million people in America - but Professor of Neurology Gregory Krauss expects that after two years of collecting data, they will be able to develop a smartphone and smartwatch app that detects and tracks seizures and sends alerts, potentially saving lives.
"We foresee the app giving some parents the confidence to allow their children to play on their own," said Krauss. "For some adults, using it might allow them, for the first time, to live safely alone. The app also provides helpful tracking of seizures, prescription medication use, and drug side effects—activities that are important in helping patients manage their condition."
Users will also be able to view their diaries and data and compare symptoms and seizures with other people in their demographic. For more information about getting involved in the research study, read the participation guide for details of how to install the app and fill out the eligibility questionnaire.
EpiWatch is a collaboration between the neurologists at Johns Hopkins and Acuma Health, which takes care of the back end data platform. It joins other new ResearchKit apps and studies using the iPhone including Duke University's Autism and Beyond study, which uses emotion detection algorithms and Oregon Health & Science's University's study on melanoma and using iPhone images to record mole growth.
The Apple Watch isn't the first wearable to be used to record epileptic seizures. The stress measuring band Embrace monitor electrodermal activity (sweat induced moisture) and the tech behind it is used by hospitals, universities and NASA. It raised $782,000 on Indiegogo in January and for every device that was bought, a child with epilepsy received a free one.