Apple is working on new features for its Apple Watch that would allow the smartwatch to detect abnormal heart rhythms, according to a report Wednesday from Bloomberg News, which cites people familiar with the effort.
One version being tested would require a user to squeeze the watch frame, causing the watch to pass "an imperceptible current across the person's chest to track electrical signals in the heart and detect any abnormalities like irregular heart rates," the news site said. Such tests are called electrocardiograms, or EKGs. There's no guarantee the feature will find its way into future products, Bloomberg cautioned.
Apple declined to comment.
The initiative fits into a recent pattern for the electronics giant. Last month, it launched its Heart Study app, which uses the Apple Watch's heart rate sensor to collect data on wearers' heart rhythms and then notify them they might be experiencing atrial fibrillation, or AFib. This technology could be important for detecting a condition that doesn't always show symptoms. In the US, approximately 750,000 hospitalizations and 130,000 yearly deaths are a result of AFib, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. .
Unlike the project under development, the current system uses light sensors under the Apple Watch to track changes in blood flow. Data from that research could help the company develop AI tools that can spot abnormalities, Bloomberg suggested.
Consumers can already Apple Watch Series 1, 2 and 3 models -- that is, every version except the original "Series Zero" model.with AliveCor's KardiaBand, an FDA-cleared device that checks on-the-spot EKG readings by way of a Bluetooth-connected strap. Instead of using the watch's optical heart rate technology, the KardiaBand uses your finger or thumb to complete an electrical circuit via two metal contacts: one for your finger, one that rests against your wrist. It works with
CNET's Scott Stein contributed to this report.
Tech Enabled: CNET chronicles tech's role in providing new kinds of accessibility.
Rebooting the Reef: CNET dives deep into how tech can help save Australia's Great Barrier Reef.