It’s no secret that Apple is positioning their Apple Watch to being tightly recognized as a Health device for monitoring athletes performance and providing feedback to users about their heart. The Apple Watch 4 introduced an FDA approved ECG. Apple also has two patent-pending inventions that will one day allow a future Apple Watch user take their blood pressure (one and two). But now an easier way has been developed and Apple may want to consider it because it doesn’t involve an inflatable cuff.
To make it work, Apple may have to start with it being a health app for iPhones and move it to Apple Watch if and when its selfie-camera is ready for market.
A recent report out of Korea notes that Seoul-based Deep Medi is preparing to launch software in the form of a mobile app that uses a phone’s camera to optically measure a person’s blood pressure. The steps are simple: Place your finger on the camera lens, hold for one minute and view your blood pressure level.
Despite the apparent simplicity, the app’s underlying software is more complex. The app’s camera illuminates the skin and measures changes in light absorption, as skin tone undergoes subtle changes depending on how much blood is circulated per heartbeat.
The differences are usually imperceptible to the human eye. But, software powered by artificial intelligence can pick up the subtle variations and use them to deduce blood pressure levels with mathematical algorithms.
Common blood pressure readings involve two numbers – one measuring systolic blood pressure and one for diastolic blood pressure.
Right now, Deep Medi says its blood pressure measuring solution meets accuracy requirements for diastolic blood pressure, and it is working to raise the accuracy of its systolic blood pressure readings before seeking medical device designation from health regulators in Korea and abroad.
Deep Medi’s CEO Lee Kwang-jin stated that “Until now, the conventional method of measuring blood pressure levels is to use an inflatable cuff around the arm that tightens and releases the artery to determine blood pressure levels. Such procedures had been confined to hospitals, as few people own blood pressure monitors at home. But our app would change this situation by enabling measurements to be made by anyone, anywhere, anytime.”
The startup is currently gathering clinical data both independently and in partnership with Yonsei University’s Gangnam Severance Hospital and the Seoul National University Bundang Hospital.
After gathering sufficient clinical data, Deep Medi plans to get its software approved as a medical device by regulators, including the US Food and Drug Administration and Korea’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety. It also plans to seek Europe’s CE mark certification for medical devices. With the approvals, it hopes to commercialize its app in major markets abroad.
While regulatory approval preparations are underway, Deep Medi has already licensed out its proprietary algorithm’s application programming interface to interested clients, such as Seoul-based Partron, which supplies sensors and modules to companies like Samsung Electronics.
It is also in talks with insurance provider MetLife to build insurance packages that use the blood pressure records that can be collected by Deep Medi’s medical software, the CEO said. This is a trend as Apple has worked with Manulife’s Vitality Program.
Apple has been rapidly advancing Apple Watch to lure the health conscious consumer. Being able to capture blood pressure quickly, accurately and conveniently could be another killer app for Apple Watch.
While Apple is already working on a blood pressure solution, the use of AI in conjunction with a device camera seems to be the easier methodology that would bypass the need for a wearable cuff.
As noted in the patent figure above, Apple already has a patent pending invention for a camera for Apple Watch. We covered that in a June 2016 report titled ” Apple Watch Patents Cover the Ultimate Selfie Camera, the Digital Crown & More.”
In theory, Apple has all of the pieces on the table. They just need to execute on a plan or license the algorithms from Deep Medi. Apple loves to own everything that’s important to a device feature so a pure Apple solution is likely they way Apple will go unless they consider acquiring the company.