Garmin's strengths have long lied in sports tracking, leaving Fitbit, Apple and others to put the spotlight on bigger health trends. That appears to be changing however, as Garmin has announced it's teaming up with the University of Kansas Medical Center to get more insight into significant medical conditions.
The partnership will start out focusing on sleep apnea - a disorder that affects breathing during sleep - and atrial fibrillation - an irregular heart beat that can lead to serious health complications. There will be several projects that will harness sensors from Garmin's sports watches and trackers to learn how wearables can help detect and manage these conditions.
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Sleep apnea affects more than 18 million people in the US, while the number of people suffering from AFib is estimated somewhere between 2.7 and 6.1 million. That's a lot of people who could benefit from these insights, which promise to eventually shift wearables from fitness devices to essential health companions.
"Wearables have already increased the public's awareness of activity levels while awake," said Dr. Stevens, who's working with Garmin on drawing sleep apnea insights from its wearables. "This research helps us better understand how wearables can do the same while asleep, helping to detect sleep apnea, which left untreated can affect mood, memory, trigger heart arrhythmias, heart attacks, and even strokes."
While Garmin doesn't let on how long these studies will go on for, most of its wearables boast a pretty impressive battery life that would be essential for capturing long-term data, particularly sleep. What's more, we've seen the company improve its designs in the last couple of years, particularly with devices like the Vivomove HR and the Fenix 5S, a beefed-up Connect IQ for apps, and music integration.