When most people or at least when I think of Apple products, young social media addicted Millennials come to mind. Not my Grandpa. But as of late there is good reason to believe that there is no share of the market that Apple is not interested in, including Seniors. During Apple’s press unveiling of the new Apple Watch Series 4, Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams referred to the new timepiece as an “intelligent guardian” on your wrist.
There is no doubt the new features are geared towards an older user and could prove invaluable for a senior who is trying to branch out and utilize as many resources as possible to stay independent.
Using a companion app on the iPhone and an electrical heart sensor on the watch, you can generate an ECG (electrocardiogram) merely by placing your finger against the Digital Crown. Apple says this FDA-cleared feature, a first of its kind offered over the counter, will become available to owners of the Series 4 watches in the U.S. in an update later this year.
What’s more, the latest watches can also automatically detect a spill and summon help if you’re immobilized or unresponsive.
These new features further cement what appears to be a major push by Apple into health care. Apple will tell you that it didn’t have strict business ambitions in the health field but that many of its initiatives in the space have happened organically. “The more we pulled on the threads, the more we realized that we have an enormous opportunity to really help people from a health standpoint,” Williams said in an interview.
Apple has had a Health app for iOS since 2014, used for, among other purposes, tracking your steps, nutrition and housing a medical ID with your blood type, medications and emergency contacts.
The clearance from the FDA that Apple announced relates to two features:
First, is that the watch can passively monitor your heart for irregular rhythms and deliver alerts if and when it detects them – this feature is available on all Apple Watch models dating back to the original.
The second, for the Series 4 only, is the ECG feature – which you, as the wearer of the watch, have to manually activate through the Digital Crown. The watch has a titanium electrode that works with the electrodes in the back crystal. The experience is supposed to take about 30 seconds, with the ECG classifying the results as either a normal “sinus rhythm” or AFib.
Apple says it will educate you when you first start using the app, but that process was not previewed in advance. You’re encouraged to share the results and consult with your doctor; you can send over a PDF with the ECG waveforms.
The fall detection feature in the Series 4 might, in fact, be a life saver. It relies on the device’s accelerometer and gyroscope. Apple says such sensors can analyze wrist trajectory and impact acceleration.
If a tumble is detected, a notification will appear on the watch face. You can tap to acknowledge the fall but say you’re OK. Or you can tap an emergency SOS button to solicit assistance.
If you haven’t responded within a minute – perhaps you hit your head and blacked out –the watch can call 911 using your nearby phone or its own cellular transmitter and also send a notification with your location to your preset emergency contacts. To help prevent accidental 911 calls, you’ll start to hear ever-louder beeps 45 seconds after the fall occurs – much like those home-based medical emergency systems – alerting you that the 911 call is about to made.
Fall detection is automatically enabled for users over age 65,; otherwise, you can turn on the feature inside the Watch app on your iPhone.
Over the past couple of years, Apple has been working with various insurance companies, some of which are subsidizing the cost of the watch for customers.
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