There are big changes coming on how watchOS 4 performs heart rate monitoring, according to information Apple revealed during its “Let’s Meet at our Place” keynote on September 12. These changes include more information in the Heart Rate app, notifications of an unexplainably high pulse, and better tracking of cardiac rhythms. Cupertino also announced a new Apple Heart Rate Study, being conducted jointly with Stanford University and the United States Food and Drug Administration.
More Granular Heart Rate Monitoring
The Heart Rate app in watchOS 4, along with Apple's Health app, are providing even more detailed information about your body's heart rate and rhythm
Since its launch, Apple Watch has been able to provide heart rate monitoring. With the advances in watchOS 4, the wearable device is now graphing and reporting that data in new ways.
When you open the Heart Rate app in watchOS 4, you’ll be able to see more information. Your current heart rate is shown, but so is your resting rate, walking average, and more.
Apple Watch does heart rate monitoring to compare your how frequently your heart beats with your activity level, and provides you with an average of what the measurement typically is when you are resting, walking, doing a Breathe session, or recovering from a workout.
Studying the Rhythm of the Heart
Going a step further, Apple revealed that the wearable device is proving effective in tracking heart rhythms, including those that are abnormal. Arrhythmias, or abnormal heart rhythms, aren’t always a problem, but can often prove to be life-threatening.
In particular, a condition known as atrial fibrillation, or afib, doesn’t always demonstrate itself in physical symptoms. Nevertheless, afib carries a risk of blood clots, strokes, and other complications.
Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer, said that Apple Watch is now capable of tracking arrhythmia, and the tech giant is looking into tracking afib in particular. That’s where the Apple Heart Study comes into play.
The Apple Heart Study
Williams announced the study, which uses data from Apple Watch to test whether its heart rate sensors are precise enough to detect common heart conditions. The study is already under way, and its first phase will be available in the App Store later this year, Williams said.
Dr. Bob Wachter, chair of the Department of Medicine at the University of California San Francisco, pointed out to CNBC how important this study could prove to be. “Atrial fibrillation is a common rhythm disorder and knowing someone has it is medically useful because those people might need specific treatments,” Wachter said.
If the Apple Heart Study does prove that the wearable device can be used to detect common heart conditions, it would make the device a “must have” for millions of people worldwide.
Cupertino has already been in talks with various insurance providers, such as Aetna in 2016, to provide Apple Watch devices to their policyholders, and this study could make such an offer much more beneficial.
Getting watchOS 4
The “gold master,” or GM, version of watchOS 4 was released to registered developers yesterday. Apple announced that the public will be able to download and install watchOS 4 on September 19, 2017.