Verily introduces health-tracking Study Watch for use in clinical research

By Heather Mack
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Verily has debuted a new health-tracking wearable designed for use in a series of observational and longitudinal studies. With the aptly dubbed Study Watch – which is not available for consumer purchase – the Alphabet subsidiary formerly known as Google Life Sciences aims to push new boundaries in the size, scope and sophistication of wearable data-gathering.

Featuring numerous physiological and environmental sensors like heart rate and ECG, the Study Watch will keep tabs on relevant health signals for a range of studies, including cardiovascular and movement disorders. Verily claims the watch has a processor powerful enough to support real-time algorithms, and firmware designed to be strong enough to facilitate future extensions like over-the-air updates.

“Study Watch represents another step in our targeted efforts to create new tools for unobtrusive biosensing,” the company wrote in a blog post.  “While numerous wearables exist in the market, we have a specific need outside of these offerings: namely, the scalable collection of rich and complex datasets across clinical and observational studies.”

To achieve that, Verily built the Study Watch to handle “seamless usage,” i.e. what is the most comfortable and unobtrusive to the wearer.  The watch –  which has a low-power, high-resolution display that only shows time and certain instructions to the user – has a week-long battery life, which will hopefully improve user compliance during longitudinal studies.

The wearer also doesn’t have to interact with it too often, as the Study Watch was constructed with large internal storage and data compression that allows it to store weeks’ worth of raw data, thus “relaxing the need to frequently sync the device,” Verily says. Moreover, all data is encrypted right on the device, then uploaded and processed using Verily’s backend algorithms and machine-learning tools.

“This infrastructure is highly scalable and can serve population studies consisting of large volumes of data,” Verily wrote on the blog post.

The watch will be used several observational studies with Verily’s partners. The company is partnering with Duke University and Stanford to conduct the Baseline Study, a longitudinal observational study that plans to follow 10,000 people over four years to establish a reference that can be used to better understand transitions from healthy states to disease. Another study is the Personalized Parkinson’s Project, which is a multi-year effort in the Netherlands to uncover patterns in the progression of Parkinson’s.