After a two-year gestation period at CES, the Omron HeartGuide blood pressure watch is real. For $499 on preorder you get a watch that is a marvel of miniaturization: It contains tiny pumps and air bladders that conduct the same kind of blood pressure test that is normally done in a clinic with much larger gear.
Since it uses the same technique as clinical gear, it was just cleared by the FDA. Unlike a slew of Kickstarter projects, it comes from the largest maker of consumer blood pressure machines, so we have no doubt it's for real.
Checking your blood pressure in an already accepted way with a wearable may sound a bit derivative, but the frequent readings that such a device make probable offer three potentially transformative advantages: Detecting a condition that usually lurks silently, detecting if you have high blood pressure that doesn't show up in the doctor's office and detecting if you only have high blood pressure when you are in the doctor's office. All three scenarios are part of the wily nature of hypertension, and tough to nail down in an annual checkup.
The watch wirelessly uploads its readings to an app called HeartAdvisor and that history can be shared with your doctor via automatic PDF export or transferred into Apple's new health records vault in iOS. Later, Omron says the app will likely connect to Samsung, Google, Walgreen's and other health data platforms.
A later update of the app will also allow HeartGuide to prompt a blood pressure reading on a schedule or take one while you sleep, which can expose another slippery form of hypertension.
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