Fitbit has expanded its open API, aimed at the health tech industry to include in-depth health metrics.
The open API enables health researchers to build large scale studies using Fitbit devices. However, until now the data that’s accessible to research teams has been pretty limited.
Fitbit will now let researchers access blood oxygen saturation (SpO2), breathing rate, heart rate variability (HRV) and sleep logs, which will dramatically increase the scope and scale of studies.
These metrics are in addition to activity, body fat and weight, heart rate, sleep, and food logging, which were previously part of the API.
This clearly enables researchers to engage with much more in-depth studies – and take advantage of the prevalence of Fitbit devices.
Using Fitbit devices for studies is more natural and comfortable than most medical grade instruments, which can be bulky, or awkward for participants to use for long periods. And Fitbits will generally last around five days on a single charge.
And work has already gotten underway.
King’s College London and Health Drive Digital are already working on studies using the extra metrics from the expanded API.
Dr Amos Folarin, Senior Software Development Group Leader at King’s College London talked about the type of studies that could benefit from using more advanced metrics:
“We explore many of these metrics in ongoing research, in areas ranging from stress detection to epilepsy seizure detection, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and COVID-19.”
Using the API can also be useful away from large scale studies, and into things like corporate wellness. Corporate wellness has often been about just getting employees moving, through things like incentivized step challenges – but leveraging deeper insights could help flag those suffering from stress.
Dr Joe Pearson, Chief Medical Office at Health Drive Digital said: “We are moving from a reactive service, that is poor for health and business outcomes, to a proactive and preventative service…by improving the health of workforces across the UK.”
While not the sexiest Fitbit announcement ever, wearables have a lot to offer in terms of shaping mass studies, which can help advance medical understanding in previously impossible ways.
Apple has done much the same with ResearchKit and CareKit – and leveraging this extra data from the Fitbit API will only lead to wearables becoming more beneficial over time.
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