Apple iWatch Coming With Optical Sensor To Measure Heart Rate And Oxygen Levels On Release Date

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By Karla Danica Figuerres | February 17, 2014 4:05 PM EST

The Apple iWatch may come with optical sensor to measure heart rate and oxygen levels on release date, according to MacRumors.

Sun Chang Xu, an electronics analyst, reported the forthcoming iWatch will sport an electro-optical sensor that will measure physical parameters like heart rate and oxygen saturation. According to a report published at the Electrical Engineering Times, Xu suggested Apple also wants to include glucose monitoring into the smartwatch. But the technology is not yet reliable enough to deliver accurate results and make it into the final product.

Although we cannot verify the validity of the report, it actually makes sense as similar optical technology is already seen in portable medical devices. For instance, pulse oximeters that use light and optical sensors to measure the oxygen saturation and heart rate are available for use at medical offices and even homes.

Generally, a pulse oximeter is attached to a thin part of the extremities - a toe, fingertip or an earlobe. The device lights two wavelengths through the body part and the photodetector and then measures the changes in absorbance of the wavelengths and uses this to calculate the blood oxygen saturation.

According to the fitness watch manufacturer Mio CEO Liz Dickinson, Apple will certainly use electro-optical sensing in the forthcoming iWatch.

Optical sensing technology requires a specific type of design to work efficiently. Essentially, the sensor needs to be in tight contact with the skin with minimal ability to move. But apparently accuracy is not the main concern of Apple.

Meanwhile, Apple hired Dr. Michael O'Reilly, who joined Apple in the previous year after being the chief medical officer at a pulse oximetry company, Masimo. Apple also hired the former Chief Technology Office of Cercacor and scientist of the same pulse oximetry company, Marcelo Lamego. In the past, Lemego worked on the technology used for Pronto-7, which is a non-invasive medical device that measures a person's oxygen saturation, pulse rate and hemoglobin levels.  

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(Photo: REUTERS / Aly Song)
A woman looks at the screen of her mobile phone in front of an Apple logo outside its store in downtown Shanghai September 10, 2013.
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