Apple files patent for stretchable health tracking band

The item could measure blood pressure, respiration rate and ECG signals.
By Laura Lovett
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Apple’s next health move could be smart clothing. Last year the tech giant filed a patent for a stretchable fabric band that could include circuitry sensors to measure blood pressure, respiration rate and ECG signals.  

The patent application, published October 3, describes a fabric-based piece of clothing that would be able to wirelessly communicate with external electronic equipment. While it is unclear what exactly this stretchable band would look like on the market, the patent gave examples of potential use cases including a headband, hat, undergarments, socks, pants, shorts and belt. The authors of the patent noted that the technology would be able to withstand being laundered. 

WHY IT MATTERS 

Apple has been positioning itself further into the healthcare arena in recent years. Its biggest move in the space came last year when the company announced that it received FDA clearance for both an atrial fibrillation-detecting algorithm and an ECG sensor built into the Series 4 Apple Watch. Now industry eyes are on the tech giant for any signals as to where it is looking next. 

THE LARGER TREND

Apple has a slew of patents continually emerging. In the spring the US Patent and Trademark Office published two new related patents from Apple that suggests the company might be working on chemical sensors, which could have a variety of uses within health. One of the patents suggests that by analyzing sweat particles in the air, the sensor could check blood sugar levels. 

This most recent patent isn’t the first time Apple set its sights on blood pressure monitoring, as last year Apple filed a patent application for a wearable blood pressure monitor. Additionally, the Cupertino, Calif., company was granted a patent for a technique for detecting blood pressure index employing the front-facing camera, the ambient light sensor, the proximity sensor or a special electrode built into the device. But this interest dates back to 2015 when another patent application was filed, this one using wrist-worn accelerometer and photo-plethysmogram sensors to calculate a blood pressure value from the pulse transit time.