Valencell says it's cracked blood pressure from the wrist

A big step on the way to blood pressure smartwatches
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Optical heart rate company Valancell has created a blood pressure monitor that works from the wrist.

The company’s PPG sensors are used in a host of wearables, but now the company says it can use its HR sensors to take blood pressure readings from the wrist or finger.

And what’s more, it says that its readings don’t require validation from a traditional cuff.

The company showed off similar capabilities last CES, when it showed it could take blood pressure readings from the ear. All this is subject to large scale studies and, of course, regulatory approval from the FDA.

But the wrist is a much more natural place, and opens up possibilities for smartwatches and fitness trackers to start monitoring blood pressure.

Valencell says readings don’t require special sensors, and can be gleaned from the company’s PPG sensors.

It takes data from optical heart rate and motion sensors, which is processed with age, weight, gender, height data via machine learning. The company says it has run trials with tens-of-thousands of patients.

Valancell says it’s the first commercially available embedded sensor to allow blood pressure readings throughout the day, and that boasts the same accuracy as current cuffs.

“Our survey results solidify the next frontier in medical wearables, which is to make a measurable impact on the global hypertension crisis through passive technologies that people will actually use regularly,” said Dr. Steven LeBoeuf, President and co-founder of Valencell


Blood pressure remains something of a Holy Grail for medical and wellness wearables. The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 and Active 2 both feature the ability to take blood pressure readings, but the smartwatch requires regular calibration from a cuff.

We recently reported on Apple patents, that looked at how blood pressure could be monitored from the wrist without validation. Those patents involved pressure sensors and special straps, so it seems Valencell’s technology could potentially be well ahead of the curve.

And Valencell’s own survey shows why blood pressure on the wrist could be such a powerful tool for health wearables.

According to a survey, 31% of Americans with hypertension measure their blood pressure just a few times a year. Only 4% measure it multiple times a day, as advised by the Mayo Clinic.

But this is just the first part of the puzzle. Valencell only makes the sensors and algorithms, so it will be up to wearable manufacturers to get this technology into devices. What’s more, it will be subject to FDA approval, and whether Valencell's tech passes that hurdle is another matter.

But we now have the means to bring better blood pressure to more consumer wearables – who will be the first to make that a reality?

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