Omron's HeartGuide blood pressure watch was one of our highlights of CES 2018. This year the company was back in Vegas to show off the wearable's final design and, most importantly, announce it had achieved Class 2 FDA clearance, meaning Omron has the stamp of medical approval.
Omron's watch is unique: it's a miniaturized blood pressure cuff, packed with pumps and an air bladder, which can take medical-grade readings throughout the day. It lives on your wrist and looks like just another smartwatch, while quietly monitoring your body for signs of hypertension.
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This is an industry-first: no one else has managed so shrink this tech down into a watch and get the FDA nod. This is also Omron's area of expertise, so you can have every confidence that it knows what it's doing.
By living on the user's wrist all day, the HeartGuide has an immediate advantage over the blood pressure tech used at your doctor's office, which can only take a snapshot reading. Those snapshots sometimes fail to tell the whole story, or risk missing the symptoms altogether.
Omron's watch is now shipping and costs $499, which is more than the company said it was planning to price it at last year. Yes, it's a smartwatch too - it tracks steps and sleep, and displays notifications - but that won't be the primary reason you'll buy the Omron HeartGuide. For people who are more at risk of hypertension though, this could be a lifesaving device.
It can be worn at night too. In fact, Omron encourages users do so. When I spoke to the company in December, Omron president Ranndy Kellogg told me that there are back-up components inside should a pump or bladder fail while you're asleep.
The watch is pretty chunky. The one I tried on at CES had the medium sized band on, but there will be more sizes launched down the road. There's obviously a lot of technology inside this thing, and while it's undoubtedly a feat of engineering, Omron can only make this thing so small right now.
To take a reading, you need to place your arm at heart height, push the button on the side of the watch and wait a few seconds as it inflates. Once done, you'll see a reading on the display, while the information is also sent over to the HeartAdvisor companion app. The app will ask you to answer some questions too, like whether you recently drank coffee or alcohol. These readings can then be exported to Apple Health, with more platforms to be supported in the future. The app also makes it easy to send a copy of your results to your doctor.
For people who suffer from hypertension, the Omron HeartGuide could genuinely change lives. Omron already has the know-how, but the watch itself is truly a marvel of engineering. Is it the best looking thing you can slap on your wrist? Of course not. But it's a damn sight more discreet than any other FDA cleared blood pressure tech on the market right now.
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