Fitbit just held its summer event, where it announced the new Versa 2 smartwatch and a Premium subscription service coming this fall. But Fitbit CEO James Park also told Wareable that the company has completed its clinical trials for sleep apnea detection, a feature it's long been promising on its flagship fitness tracker and smartwatches.
Park first mentioned his interest in detecting sleep apnea, a potentially dangerous condition that disturbs breathing, back in 2017. Apnea is most often detected using polysomnography, but Fitbit believes it can do it using the SpO2 sensor found on the back of its more recent devices like the Versa and Charge 3. That, however, requires regulatory approval, and Fitbit is currently working with the FDA to get it.
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"We can‚Äôt really control regulators, it is a process," Park said when we asked about its work on apnea. "We have finished our clinical trials on apnea, so it will just be a matter of time."
Park wouldn't offer a more concrete timeline beyond "hopefully sometime soon." However the company did reveal that, following an update this fall, users with an SpO2-loaded Fitbit device will start to see an oxygen variation chart in the app.
This will show you how oxygen levels in your bloodstream vary over time, but it will not be able to diagnose or indicate any concerning trends; it will simply offer you the raw data, at least to begin with.
When pushed on more details on this, Park said, "That's going to unfold over time. We'll have some insights in the beginning, but I think we also want to learn from our user community and the data that we see, how those start to correlate over time."
He later clarified it will be simple visualizations at launch, but that the plan is to add insights as time goes on. A PR for Fitbit followed up by describing the new feature as a stepping stone" to deeper insights, which will require regulatory permission.
So, it looks like the wait for that SpO2 sensor in your Fitbit wearable to be put to good us is set to go on for a little longer.