One of the biggest benefits of fitness trackers and smartwatches is being able to integrate heart rate monitoring into your exercise, allowing you to always keep an eye on just how your ticker is handling different types of activity.
But as we recently explored, measuring heart rate from different parts of the body can provide you with drastically different readings. While optical, wrist-based sensors can give you a small insight, those who like to train at high intensity will usually be better served with an chest strap.
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Having something around the chest isn't for everyone, though, which is why startup HeartIn is looking to bring the same accuracy of these electrocardiogram readings to everyday exercisers with smart clothing, starting at $139 on Kickstarter.
We spoke with co-founder Oleksii Vinogradov to see just what HeartIn is looking to accomplish in the heart rate monitoring space and what tech is behind the device.
"It was my dream, if you like, to provide a mass market diagnostic device. People don't want to go through traditional monitoring, so I want to completely disrupt that market and provide people with a good opportunity to think about their health in a comfortable way," he told us.
But how does the company hope to achieve this?
Well, instead of having to rely on a chest strap to access ECG readings, HeartIn has developed a T-shirt that can transmit the data. Electrodes are worked down the side of the rib cage and torso, connecting to a small sensor that's clipped onto the left shoulder.
This then collects data and feeds it to the accompanying smartphone app, allowing you to view metrics such as VO2 Max performance, training intensity, stress levels and workout goals through the dashboard. During exercise, you'll be privy to constant heart rate monitoring, a fatigue assessment, cardio zones and workout load tracking (TRIMP).
But while you'll get feedback to help with your exercise, as well as recovery monitoring, heart rate variability (HRV) is also monitored in order to keep tabs on any abnormalities with your heart. For example, the device can detect help atrial fibrillation, a leading cause of strokes and heart failure.
Vinogradov also explained why something like this can only be achieved through ECG tracking.
"Optical sensors can't provide medical grade accuracy. The accuracy is around 70-80% and for HRV it's only around 50%, so we couldn't use this and provide inaccuracy to so many people," he told Wareable.
"ECG can provide medical grade results, around 99% with HeartIn, which means we can pass the certification. So not only do we have the wellness case for users, but we still have the same technology for medical use."
As with any startup embarking on a health tech device, getting to this point hasn't been easy for the HeartIn team. But Vinogradov believes the product is now able to separate itself from other options in the heart rate monitoring space.
"It's a big challenge to transmit a signal from the arm to the torso and then across to a smartphone, but we achieved it after a long time â eight years â in research and development," he said. "Because even if you provide something different, you have to validate it and make the quality of signal as reliable as possible.
"Currently there's a couple of competitors, and their products look very promising, but the problem is when the monitoring is by the same means as what's already out there â so, through a chest belt. We don't want to put pressure on the chest, we want people to be comfortable."
So, HeartIn appears to be your way into the world of ECG heart monitoring without having to deal with a chest strap, but should you back the project?
Vinogradov confirmed that the company already has the money in the bank to manufacture the product, with the campaign goal of $15,000 also now being surpassed. Orders will take place over the next few weeks ahead of an expected November arrival, while apps are already in place for both iOS and Android devices.
He also stressed there should be minimal hiccups in the next phase of the process, since the product can initially launch as a wellness device before receiving medical certifications later this year.
From that, it's reasonable to mark this as a safe bet to back. However, there's always the potential for small issues to arise with supply chains or with the device itself, so keep that in mind before pledging. At this stage, we haven't corroborated the claims of accuracy yet either.
On paper, though, HeartIn would appear ready to add a fresh perspective to the most accurate form of heart rate monitoring.