Samsung is moving forward with a steady rollout of blood pressure measurement and ECG monitoring on its consumer smartwatches. After securing regulatory approvals and launching the features in South Korea and the U.S. last year, the tech company announced today that both health monitoring tools will soon be released in an additional 31 countries.
The expansion follows the Samsung Health Monitor app's receipt of a CE mark in December. With this, the company said that it is now permitted to activate the features in 28 European countries, including the U.K. (See the full list in Samsung's announcement.) On top of these, the tech company said that it would also be sending the health-tracking features live in three other countries: Chile, Indonesia and the UAE.
Samsung said that the updates will be "progressively available" on its Galaxy Watch3 and Galaxy Watch Active2 devices beginning on February 4, with the exact timing of each release varying by market and carrier.
Both features are accessed through the Samsung Health Monitor app. Blood pressure is measured using heart rate monitoring sensors to conduct pulse wave analysis, although users must calibrate their device every four weeks using a traditional cuff.
The ECG feature, meanwhile, has users rest their forearm on a flat surface and place a fingertip from the opposite hand on the device's top button for 30 seconds. From this, the app will classify its readings as regular (sinus rhythm) or irregular (atrial fibrillation). Per Samsung, these readings are not intended to replace professional diagnosis or treatment.
WHY IT MATTERS
Recently published data estimate a worldwide prevalence of registered atrial fibrillation of roughly 37,500 million cases, with signs that that case counts have been on the rise during the last 20 years.
Smartwatch ECG, blood pressure monitoring and other consumer-friendly health tools can help individuals be more aware of whether or not they should consult a clinician or specialist about their condition, and potentially empowers individuals to take a more active role in their own care and health behaviors.
While Samsung's tools are already available in a few of the company's key markets, the widespread launch across Europe and a few other countries will greatly increase consumer access to the technology.
“Nearly one million people have used the Samsung Health Monitor app to manage their health since its initial launch in Korea last June,” TaeJong Jay Yang, corporate SVP and head of the Health Team and Mobile Communications Business at Samsung Electronics, said in a statement. “We’re committed to bringing this innovative health service to more people across the world, and the latest expansion marks a major milestone in our mission.”
THE LARGER TREND
Of course, for Samsung the broader ECG and blood pressure feature rollout is an important step in keeping pace with its competitors.
Apple, which leads the consumer smartwatch market, has been front-and-center with built-in ECG since the Series 4 Apple Watch in 2018. Fitbit has also been working to keep pace, having finally received U.S. and E.U. regulatory clearances for its ECG app in September, while France-based Withings first unveiled its ECG-enabled ScanWatch more than a year ago, but is still waiting on the FDA go-ahead.
On the blood pressure monitoring front, Omron Healthcare has offered a smartwatch with a built-in blood pressure cuff for the last few years. Others have targeted a cuff-less approach that relies on optical sensors. An example is the Swiss startup Aktiia, which announced today that its device has received a CE mark.