Future Fitbit wearables like the Fitbit Versa 4 smartwatch could feature built-in blood pressure sensing technology, according to a patent filed by Fitbit that came to light this week.
Patent (opens in a new tab) (By Edge (opens in a new tab)) describes a system that “calculates a blood pressure estimate from one or more samples of sensor data”, with the user placing one finger on the wearable device display to obtain the reading.
It would be a surprise if Fitbit wasn’t working on this kind of technology, and indeed we’ve seen prior research and previous company patents suggesting something like this was in the works. However, it will be difficult to get the right result.
We should get our usual patent disclaimer out of the way: when patents are filed, it is no guarantee that anything will actually appear. That said, they give us a useful window into what areas different tech companies are exploring.
Things are further complicated by the fact that Fitbit is now part of Google. If this blood pressure monitoring sensor update does arrive, it could be a Google Pixel Watch sequel and not anything with the Fitbit name attached.
It’s worth remembering that the latest Galaxy wearables, including the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5, already offer some form of blood pressure monitoring – although the feature does not have regulatory approval for use in the US.
Analysis: smarter smart devices
The miniature computers on our wrists are getting smarter, adding new features year after year to collect even more data about our health and well-being. The latest Apple Watch 8, for example, has a temperature sensor to track menstruation and ovulation.
Blood pressure measurement capabilities would be another significant step forward. Readings are usually taken with a cuff that cuts off and then releases blood flow to obtain a measurement while the heart is beating (systolic) and resting (diastolic).
Pushing something like this to the limit won’t be easy, and regulators like the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will be watching closely – if the sensors aren’t accurate, the technology will not be approved for consumer use.
We’ve seen enough improvements to smartwatches at this stage to think it’s possible – though perhaps not in the near future. It may also come with a premium in the form of the price of the devices.