By John P. Mello Jr.
Apr 23, 2020 9:24 AM PT
Cuffless blood pressure measuring is coming to the Android world. Samsung on Tuesday announced that South Korean authorities have approved its Health Monitor app for use on the Galaxy Watch Active2. The app will be available in the third quarter of this year.
High blood pressure has been associated with increased risk of brain, kidney and heart problems, including stroke and coronary disease. By helping users measure and track their blood pressure, the Health Monitor app supports more informed decision making that can lead to healthier lives, Samsung said.
“The Samsung Health Monitor app has the potential to help millions of people around the world who are affected by high blood pressure,” Senior Vice President Taejong Jay Yang remarked.
Prior to use, the app has to be calibrated with a traditional blood pressure cuff. After that, you can tap “measure” in the app, and it will display your blood pressure.
The watch measures blood pressure through pulse wave analysis, which is tracked with the device’s Heart Rate Monitoring sensors, Samsung said. The app analyzes the relationship between the calibration value and the blood pressure change to determine the blood pressure.
To ensure accuracy, you need to calibrate the device with a blood pressure cuff at least once every four weeks.
Out of the gate, the Samsung Health Monitor faces some challenges.
The need to recalibrate every four weeks is one of them, pointed out Jeff Dachis, CEO of Informed Data Systems, the New York City-based maker of OneDrop, a diabetes management app for iOS devices.
Still, “consumer grade blood pressure checks available at a glance are helpful in enabling and empowering people to be more aware of what their bodies are doing in real time and enabling them to make better choices,” he told TechNewsWorld.
“For the everyday person trying to keep an eye on their health and their wellness, this isn’t going to be super exciting for them,” said Jitesh Ubrani, research manager for mobile devices at IDC, a market research company based in Framingham, Massachusetts.
“The reason for that is that it has only been approved for use in South Korea, but more importantly, it requires the use of a cuff-based, blood-pressure monitor,” he told TechNewsWorld.
“That’s not what folks are hoping for,” he said. “They want to measure blood pressure on their wrists without any additional tools.”
Health and Fitness Sells Watches
Measuring blood pressure on the wrist without supplemental tools isn’t here yet, but it’s coming, Ubrani said.
Before it’s done on the wrist, it likely will be done in the ear, he continued.
“In order to get a good blood pressure reading, you need to be very stationary,” Ubrani explained. “Your ears are far more stationary than your wrist.”
Getting high grade health and fitness applications is important to smartwatch makers because it’s important to smartwatch buyers.
“Forty one percent of current smartwatch owners think health tracking was one of the most important features in their smartwatch purchasing decision,” said Jessica Montgomery, research analyst at 451 Research, a research and advisory company based in Boston.
Moreover, 55 percent of planned smartwatch buyers think health tracking is one of the most important features in their smartwatch purchasing decision, she told TechNewsWorld.
“So many of the dominant use cases for wearables are in health and fitness tracking,” noted 451 research vice president Christian Renaud.
“In fact, what we’re beginning to see is a little bit of a split between ‘I’m wearing this because I want to see how I’ve done on my treadmill workout’ and ‘This is something my doctor gave me because they want to monitor me,'” he told TechNewsWorld.
Pandemic Could Drive Demand
Ironically, Apple didn’t recognize how important health and fitness apps were to wearables when it launched Apple Watch, Ubrani said.
“When they launched the initial Apple Watch, it was more of a communication tool than a health and fitness tool.Then with the second and third generation, they realized that health and fitness should be in the forefront,” he recalled.
“Every wearable maker out there has realized the same thing: It’s important to have health and fitness features baked into your watch,” Ubrani added.
Health and fitness is going to be even more important in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Given the environment we’re in now, people want to be able to monitor their health on a daily basis and in real time. Wearables can play a big role in that,” Ubrani said.
“We’re not there yet, but there’s research now into making wearables more useful,” he noted. “By adding more and more sensors and better software, we’ll get there in the next couple of years.”
As innovative as Health Monitor may be, Samsung has a lot of ground to cover before it challenges Apple in the smartwatch market.
Apple accounts for 64 percent of smartwatch owners, compared to 18 percent for Samsung, according to 451 Research.
“The Apple Watch is a superior, integrated, well-designed user experience that many people find valuable to their health and fitness regimens,” maintained OneDrop’s Dachis.
Also, smartphone compatibility attracts consumers to Apple Watch over other smartwatches, 451’s Montgomery pointed out.
“Smartwatches are one of those things that people want compatible with their smartphone, especially if you want cellular capabilities with your watch,” she said.
Apple has done a good job tying its watch into its overall ecosystem, said IDC’s Ubrani.
“You can get iMessages on your watch, for example,” he noted. “You can’t get iMessages anywhere else.”
What’s more, Apple integrates services like Apple Music into its watch.
“You don’t see that kind of lock-in with Samsung,” Ubrani said.
That may be why “attachment rates” for the iPhone are expected to balloon in the coming years.
Almost one in 10 iPhone owners had an Apple Watch in 2019, according to Loup Ventures. By 2025, it expects that number to mushroom to 40 percent, which means about 12 percent of Apple’s revenue would be from its watch.