Apple is planning to add a raft of new health features to the Apple Watch, including blood-pressure trends, a thermometer for fertility and sleep tracking, sleep apnea detection, and diabetes detection, as well as a number of updates for existing models, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Sources who claim to be familiar with Apple’s plans and have access to internal company documents told the Wall Street Journal about the company’s development of a large number of new Apple Watch health features in detail. Most of these new health monitoring functions are not expected to arrive before 2022.
Apple is said to be considering adding a thermometer to the Apple Watch for health monitoring purposes as soon as next year. The thermometer’s features are purportedly based around fertility planning to give women insights into their ovulation cycle and improved detection of patterns when tracking sleep. Further in the future, there are also plans for this sensor to detect when a user has a fever.
The blood-pressure monitoring feature reportedly detects when pressure is increasing and can highlight the presence of hypertension. Apple intended to release the feature next year but has experienced difficulties in perfecting the technology, according to the report.
As opposed to the common methods that measure blood pressure using an inflatable cuff wrapped around the upper arm, Apple’s system measures the speed of the wave of a heartbeat through a user’s arteries using sensors. The Apple Watch would then show a user how their blood pressure is trending, but would not be able to provide a baseline systolic and diastolic blood pressure measurement, leading some Apple employees have to raise questions with managers over the usefulness of the feature.
Apple is also purportedly studying blood-pressure monitoring with an additional cuffless device that could provide a more precise reading without inflating.
Further in the future, the company apparently has plans to implement detection for sleep apnea using the existing blood-oxygen sensor, but there have been challenges with taking readings often enough without draining the Apple Watch’s battery life. Apple also intends to provide medical guidance when the Apple Watch detects low blood-oxygen levels.
Plans to bring detection of diabetes to the Apple Watch are also underway, but the company is said to have faced challenges with non-invasive blood glucose measuring and struggled to make progress. Apple is apparently working with the National University of Singapore on a research project to examine lifestyle coaching for pre-diabetic people who wear blood-glucose monitoring devices made by other companies.
The report cautioned that these new Apple Watch health features are currently under study and development at Apple and could ultimately be delayed or canceled.
Separately, Apple is also reportedly putting pressure on the FDA to approve a number of updates for existing Apple Watch models. One update would allow people with atrial fibrillation to use the Apple Watch to track their condition over time. Another update would allow the Apple Watch to alert users if their blood-oxygen levels drop.
Currently, the Apple Watch can only look for signs of atrial fibrillation in people who do not have the condition and blood-oxygen monitoring can only provide a reading without alerts for changes.