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 7
Buyer's Guide: Apple Watch (Buy Now)
Related Forum: Apple Watch

Top Rated Comments

NutsNGum Avatar
100 months ago
Analyst believes iWatch may include method of accurately determining time of day.
Score: 32 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Mr. Gates Avatar
100 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
100 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
100 months ago
If this is true, it'll be a huge hit with coma patients!
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jonyive4 Avatar
100 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
100 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)

Related Stories

studio buds family

Beats Studio Buds Debuting Today With Active Noise Cancellation, Stemless Design, and More for $150

Monday June 14, 2021 8:00 am PDT by
We've seen a lot of teasers about the Beats Studio Buds over the past month since they first showed up in Apple's beta software updates, and today they're finally official. The Beats Studio Buds are available to order today in red, white, and black ahead of a June 24 ship date, and they're priced at $149.99. The Studio Buds are the first Beats-branded earbuds to truly compete with AirPods...
YouTube Picture in Picture Feature

YouTube Premium Subscribers Can Now Use iOS Picture-in-Picture: Here's How

Wednesday August 25, 2021 3:55 am PDT by
Google has rolled out picture-in-picture support as an "experimental" feature for YouTube premium subscribers, allowing them to watch video in a small window when the app is closed. If you're a premium YouTube subscriber looking to try out picture-in-picture, follow these steps: Launch a web browser and sign into your YouTube account at YouTube.com. Navigate to www.youtube.com/new. Scroll...
gradiente iphone white

Brazilian Electronics Company Revives Long-Running iPhone Trademark Dispute

Tuesday May 19, 2020 1:06 pm PDT by
Apple has been involved in a long-running iPhone trademark dispute in Brazil, which was revived today by IGB Electronica, a Brazilian consumer electronics company that originally registered the "iPhone" name in 2000. IGB Electronica fought a multi-year battle with Apple in an attempt to get exclusive rights to the "iPhone" trademark, but ultimately lost, and now the case has been brought to...
youtube apple tv

YouTube Discontinuing 3rd-Generation Apple TV App, AirPlay Still Available

Wednesday February 3, 2021 3:09 pm PST by
YouTube is planning to stop supporting its YouTube app on the third-generation Apple TV models, where YouTube has long been available as a channel option. A 9to5Mac reader received a message about the upcoming app discontinuation, which is set to take place in March.Starting early March, the YouTube app will no longer be available on Apple TV (3rd generation). You can still watch YouTube on...
ryanscoolios13thumbnail

Apple Releases iOS 13.1.3 With Bug Fixes for Phone, Mail, Health, and More

Tuesday October 15, 2019 10:09 am PDT by
Apple today released iOS 13.1.3 and iPadOS 13.1.3, minor updates to the iOS 13.1.2 software that was released two weeks ago. This is the fourth update to the iOS 13 operating system that came out in September. The iOS and iPadOS 13.1.3 updates are available on all eligible devices over-the-air in the Settings app. To access the updates, go to Settings > General > Software Update....
bluetti eb70 main

MacRumors Giveaway: Win a Bluetti EB70 Portable Power Station and 200W Solar Panel

Friday September 3, 2021 11:13 am PDT by
For this week's giveaway, we've teamed up with MAXOAK to offer MacRumors readers a chance to win a Bluetti portable power station and an accompanying solar panel. Bluetti makes a range of portable power station options that are useful for camping, emergencies, power outages, off-grid living, and similar situations. The Bluetti EB70 is a solid middle of the road option that offers 716Wh and...
M1X MBP Feature

Leaker: Upcoming MacBook Pro to See Price Hike Over Current Model, Equal Performance Across 14 and 16-Inch Sizes

Tuesday August 24, 2021 5:28 am PDT by
The upcoming 14-inch MacBook Pro is set to be more expensive than the current 13-inch MacBook Pro and both the 14 and 16-inch models will offer the same performance, according to the leaker known as "Dylandkt." The leaker shared the information on Twitter, explaining that both of the upcoming MacBook Pro models, expected to come in 14 and 16-inch sizes, will feature the same performance due...
iphone 13 teal with text

Apple Expecting iPhone and iPad Supply Constraints in September Quarter

Tuesday July 27, 2021 2:34 pm PDT by
During today's earnings call covering the third fiscal quarter of 2021 (second calendar quarter), Apple CFO Luca Maesteri said that Apple is expecting supply constraints to affect the iPhone and the iPad in the coming quarter. "The supply constraints that we've seen in the June quarter will be higher in the September quarter," said Maestri. The constraints will impact iPhone and iPad sales...
os x mountain lion macs 16x9 2

Apple Makes OS X Lion and Mountain Lion Free to Download

Wednesday June 30, 2021 12:19 pm PDT by
Apple recently dropped the $19.99 fee for OS X Lion and Mountain Lion, making the older Mac updates free to download, reports Macworld. Apple has kept OS X 10.7 Lion and OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion available for customers who have machines limited to the older software, but until recently, Apple was charging $19.99 to get download codes for the updates. As of last week, these updates no...
maxresdefault

Craig Federighi and Greg Joswiak Discuss iPadOS 15, macOS Monterey, Privacy, Shortcuts on Mac, and More

Saturday June 12, 2021 6:12 am PDT by
As is tradition, Apple executives Craig Federighi and Greg Joswiak joined Daring Fireball's John Gruber in an episode of The Talk Show to discuss several announcements that Apple made over this weeks WWDC, including iPadOS 15, macOS Monterey, and a large focus around privacy. Federighi kicks off the conversation discussing the common architecture, now thanks to Apple silicon, across all of...