#Trending: Wearables want to play doctor

Moving beyond heart rate, steps and sleep stages
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Wearables that were able to track heart rate and sleep used to be special. Wearables that tracked those two well were even better. But nowadays they're pretty much the norm. It's disappointing when a wearable can't track your heart rate, or doesn't have the skills to keep track of your sleep patterns.

Typically, when things become boring or stale or - eek - normal, you look to change things up. And this week, we saw a couple of companies that are looking to do something more. They're not content with just tracking your heart rate and sleep, they now want to help detect health issues too and more.

Like who?

Fitbit for one. Conor Heneghan, the company's lead research scientist, announced that Fitbit is looking to create devices or technology that can help diagnose and track sleep apnea.

That sounds huge! Wait... what's sleep apnea?

It's a sleep disorder that affects roughly 18 million Americans. Our editor Michael dove into it this week, actually. Sleep apnea causes one or more shallow breaths or pauses in breathing while sleeping. It's long-term effects are dangerous, including increased risk in obesity, high blood pressure and even heart attack.

That is big. What else?

Blood pressure is another huge one. Companies have hinted at this for some time, including Fitbit CEO James Park back in 2015. US editor Hugh poked around and found that Omron, a company that makes blood pressure monitors, is working on an Apple Watch-sized blood pressure monitor for your wrist.

On my wrist?

Yep. Normally, you'd have to hold your wrist up to your heart level to get it in line, because that's where blood pressure readings tend to be the most accurate (hence why doctors usually do it on your upper arm). Omron's watch will account for the difference though.

You mentioned companies, plural. Is there anyone else?

Well there's Withings. Sorry, I mean Nokia. They've just announced the BPM+ blood pressure monitor, which isn't exactly a wearable but it's super portable and easy to carry around. You can get your readings on the go and share them with your doctor.

What happened to Withings?

Oh, right. Withings is now Nokia. It's a branding thing. Anyway, they're doubling down on health, which includes better coaching, more actionable data and sending vital health information between patients and doctors. Rather than just focus on your fitness, Nokia wants to go all in on your health.

Even my diet?

To be seen. However, there is Styr Labs. They're not a big fan of food logging, so they're using Alexa and AI to improve the experience. Instead of meticulously adding what you eat into an app, you can just tell Alexa. They want to use AI to help you craft the most health meals possible for you in the future.

Goodbye, milkshakes.

Your heart will go on. Especially if these companies can move beyond basic measurements like heart rate, steps and sleep stages. Companies have set a baseline of what we can expect - health wise - from our wearables. Now they're going beyond it.

How we test

Husain Sumra


Husain joined Wareable in 2017 as a member of our San Fransisco based team. Husain is a movies expert, and runs his own blog, and contributes to MacRumors.

He has spent hours in the world of virtual reality, getting eyes on Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Samsung Gear VR. 

At Wareable, Husain's role is to investigate, report and write features and news about the wearable industry – from smartwatches and fitness trackers to health devices, virtual reality, augmented reality and more.

He writes buyers guides, how-to content, hardware reviews and more.

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