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Apple Watch gets serious heart monitoring with the new Kardia wrist strap

The Kardia Band for Apple Watch wants to move beyond "health app" and into genuine wearable medical technology.


Wearable manufacturers talk a big game about "health" and "fitness", but a new accessory for the Apple Watch is looking to up the stakes significantly with a medical grade electrocardiogram (ECG).

AliveCor already makes an FDA-approved ECG accessory for your phone, and the company is now bringing its technology to the Apple Watch.

Kardia Band is pretty much what it sounds like: a strap for the Apple Watch. The magic, though, is the medical-grade ECG built into it. The Kardia Band can also record your heart rate using an integrated sensor, while most current wearables with a heart rate monitor use an LED to track what your heart is up to.

The LED light of these wearables illuminates your capillaries and then measures the frequency of your blood flow. As CNET's Sharon Profis discovered some time ago, it can be a decent indication of resting heart rate, but it's often not particularly good when your heart rate is elevated.

And that's where the Kardia Band comes in. It not only monitors your heart rate, but it directly communicates with the Kardia app, which runs the data through an analysis algorithm to detect the presence of atrial fibrillation. That's basically a fancy term for a wildly irregular heartbeat and it's a common cause of stroke.

The Kardia app will alert you when you've got the all clear for a normal heart rate, and you can take voice notes to accompany each reading. The idea behind the voice memo is to let doctors and caregivers know if an elevated heart rate is coming on the end of a simple coffee binge or due to something potentially more alarming.

AliveKor already operates a healthcare provider dashboard for its current ECG product, allowing your doctor to access your readings, and the Kardia will work in the same system.

Even if you're not too worried about the intensive medical care side of things, the Kardia Band will work with the Apple Health app to provide a much more accurate heart rate reading to go with your step count and calorific intake.

Vic Gundotra, the CEO of AliveCor and ex senior vice president of social at Google, said in a statement that the Kardia Band was the "introduction of the Wearable MedTech category" as well as the "future of proactive heart health".

At the moment, it's unknown how how much the Band will cost. But it's clear that AliveCor are hitching its wagon to the Kardia Band: the company is changing the name of its existing AliveCor Mobile ECG to the Kardia Mobile.