iWatch May Use Optical Sensors to Measure Heart Rate and Oxygen Levels

Apple's iWatch may include optical sensors designed to measure physical functions like heart rate and oxygen levels, according to electronics analyst Sun Chang Xu of Chinese site Electrical Engineering Times [Google Translation], who cites supply chain sources with knowledge of the matter. Xu also indicated that while Apple had planned on glucose monitoring, non-invasive methods have proven to be highly inaccurate and thus may not be included in the final product.

Measuring oxygen levels and heart rate are two features the iWatch has been previously rumored to include and optical sensors, which are used in many medical and health-related products, are a logical choice for the smart watch.

Pulse oximetry devices, which are often designed to fit over a finger, use optical sensors to measure oxygen levels in the blood. These sensors are light-based, sending two wavelengths of light through the skin. Differences in the way the light is absorbed allows the device to detect oxygen saturation in the blood. The majority of pulse oximeters clip to a fingertip or an earlobe, suggesting a wrist-based pulse oximeter is difficult, but not impossible, to develop.

Monitoring heart rate via optical sensor is a newer technology that is incorporated into several fitness products including the Mio Alpha heart rate watch. Typical heart rate monitoring in the past has required a chest strap, but with an optical sensor, a light shone on the skin can be used to measure blood flow through capillaries, thus determining heart rate.

mioalpha

The Mio Alpha heart rate monitoring watch

MacRumors spoke to Mio founder and CEO Liz Dickinson about the possibility of an optical heart rate measurement tool in the iWatch, and she believes the company would absolutely opt for electro-optical sensing for such a function. She also suggested an iWatch with heart-rate measuring capabilities would need to fit tightly to the wrist.

Having said that, using electro optical sensing requires a very specific type of design in order to work accurately. The sensor needs to be in tight contact with the skin with little ability to move.

Perhaps Apple does not care about accuracy during motion but in any event, at the time readings were being taken even if the person is still, the watch, or band, would need to be flush to the skin.

Electro-optical sensing also requires careful calibration to overcome interference from motion and noise. The Mio Alpha incorporates a built-in accelerometer and noise filtration software to garner accurate readings, and it is possible Apple might adopt some of the same technology.

IMG_75231

Underside of the Mio Alpha heart rate-sensing watch (Courtesy of DC Rainmaker)

Over the course of the last several months, Apple has hired a number of health experts in fields related to both heart rate monitoring and pulse oximetry. Two executives from pulse-oximetry company Masimo joined Apple, including its former Chief Medical Officer. Several of Apple's health-related hires have also been from C8 MediSensors, a company focused on non-invasive blood monitoring sensors.

While it is unclear exactly which health-related functions the final iWatch product might measure, rumors have indicated it will include multiple sensors capable of not only measuring heart rate and oxygen level, but also movement, sleep, hydration levels, and more.

Related Roundup: Apple Watch Series 6
Buyer's Guide: Apple Watch (Buy Now)

Top Rated Comments

NutsNGum Avatar
91 months ago
Analyst believes iWatch may include method of accurately determining time of day.
Score: 32 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Mr. Gates Avatar
91 months ago
Am I the only one NOT looking forward to everyone walking around wearing the exact SAME watch ?
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
AppleScruff1 Avatar
91 months ago

Am I the only one NOT looking forward to everyone walking around wearing the exact SAME watch ?


Everyone wearing the same watch and using the same phone. What was the point of that Apple 1984 commercial again? I can't remember. :confused: :D
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
AngerDanger Avatar
91 months ago
If this is true, it'll be a huge hit with coma patients!
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jonyive4 Avatar
91 months ago

Am I the only one NOT looking forward to everyone walking around wearing the exact SAME watch ?

hipster.
do you own a windows phone? because no one uses that.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
AppleScruff1 Avatar
91 months ago

Analyst believes iWatch may include method of accurately determining time of day.


There haven't been any rumors that it may actually tell time. What if it doesn't? :D
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

lg wing

LG Considering Exit From Smartphone Business, Halts LCD Production for iPhone

Wednesday January 20, 2021 5:38 am PST by
LG is considering exiting the smartphone business entirely amid declining shipments and accrued losses of $4.5 billion over the past five years (via The Korea Herald). LG CEO Kwon Bong-Seok cautioned staff earlier today that the company is re-evaluating its presence in the smartphone industry: Since the competition in the global market for mobile devices is getting fiercer, it is about...
google maps detailed street level e1611052089473

Google Maps Gains Enhanced Street-Level Detail in Four Major Cities

Tuesday January 19, 2021 2:34 am PST by
Google Maps has quietly been updated to include significantly more detailed street-level information in a handful of key cities around the world. Upon zooming in, Google's maps for Central London, Tokyo, San Francisco, and New York now benefit from shapes and widths that match the scale of roads more accurately. Meanwhile, enhanced graphical representations of sidewalks, crosswalks,...
2019 mac pro side and front

Tim Cook Gifted Donald Trump 'First' 2019 Mac Pro

Wednesday January 20, 2021 5:45 pm PST by
Apple CEO Tim Cook gifted former United States President Donald Trump with the first 2019 Mac Pro that came off of the assembly line in Austin, Texas, according to a financial disclosure report that was released today (via The Verge). "Mac Pro Computer, the first created at the Flex Factory in Austin, Texas," reads the entry, which values the machine at $5,999, the base price for a Mac Pro....
airpods max sim ejector

AirPods Max Headband Removable With Just a SIM Ejector Tool, Hinting at Interchangeable Headbands

Tuesday January 19, 2021 8:25 am PST by
It is possible to remove the headband of AirPods Max with just a standard SIM card ejector tool, hinting at the possibility of interchanging headbands to achieve a different colorway. Image via Prelook In December, MacRumors revealed the large variety of AirPods Max ear cushion color combinations when it became clear that they were magnetically attatched and available for sale separately....
iphone 5s black slate

Images of Unreleased iPhone 5s in Black and Slate Shared Online

Sunday January 17, 2021 9:47 am PST by
Twitter user @DongleBookPro has today shared images of a prototype iPhone 5s in an unreleased Black and Slate color. The iPhone 5s was launched in September 2013. The device featured Touch ID, a 64-bit processor, and a True Tone LED flash for the first time. Other new features included a five-element lens with an f/2.2 aperture, a 15 percent larger camera sensor, Burst Mode, and Slo-Mo...
iphone 12 vs iphone 12 mini

Apple Shifting Some Production From iPhone 12 mini to iPhone 12 Pro to Meet Demand

Wednesday January 20, 2021 8:12 am PST by
Apple has reportedly cut production of the iPhone 12 mini by two million units to create more manufacturing capacity for the iPhone 12 Pro, according to a new Morgan Stanley investment note seen by PED30. Apple is believed to have made the switch for the first quarter of 2021 in an effort to combat continuing lead times for the more popular iPhone 12 Pro. iPhone 12 Pro lead times remain ...
Apple VR Feature

Bloomberg: Apple's First AR/VR Headset 'Pricey, Niche Precursor' to More Ambitious AR Glasses and Could Launch Next Year

Thursday January 21, 2021 3:27 am PST by
Apple's first virtual reality headset will be a "pricey, niche precursor" to a more ambitious augmented reality product, according to a new report from Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. As a mostly virtual reality device, it will display an all-encompassing 3-D digital environment for gaming, watching video and communicating. AR functionality, the ability to overlay images and information over a view...
shot on iphone 12 apple

Apple Highlights Photos Shot by iPhone 12 Users: Portraits, Cityscapes, and More

Tuesday January 19, 2021 6:05 am PST by
Apple today shared a gallery of photos shot by customers using the iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, and iPhone 12 Pro Max, with scenes including cityscapes, landscapes, portraits of people, and more at day and night. Shot on iPhone 12 Pro Max by "NKCHU" in China (top) and shot on iPhone 12 Pro Max by Rohit Vohra in India (bottom) iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 models have a dual camera ...
Apple and Hyundai feature

Apple Car Production Again Linked to Kia Motor's US Plant in Georgia

Tuesday January 19, 2021 4:19 am PST by
Hyundai intends to transition the company's Apple Car involvement to its Kia brand as part of an internal arrangement that could see production move to the U.S., according to a new report today. On Sunday, Korea IT News reported that Apple and Hyundai are seeking a partnership agreement for the upcoming Apple Car by March, and that the electric vehicles could be made at a Georgia factory...
iPhone 13 Notch Feature

iPhone 13 Rumored to Feature Smaller Notch, Pro Model Cameras to Use Larger Image Sensor

Thursday January 21, 2021 1:38 am PST by
Apple's iPhone 13 series will feature a redesigned Face ID system that will allow for a smaller notch at the top of the screen, according to a new report today. The rumor comes via hit-and-miss Taiwanese industry publication DigiTimes, whose supply chain sources also claim that the ultra wide-angle lens in Apple's next-generation iPhones is due for an upgrade. The next-generation iPhones'...