Fitbit Announces its new Fitbit Sense which for the first time features an accurate ECG to help monitor heart activity, reports PAT PILCHER.
It seems like Fitbit has been making fitness trackers and smartwatches forever. While their fitness tracking has been brilliant, they’ve never really managed to bring a compelling set of smartwatch functions together. This looks set to change with their latest, the Fitbit Sense.
Aside from its slick design, the Sense finally brings together features that Fitbit has been talking about for years. If the hype matches reality (and based on pre-release demos to date, it’s looking good), the Sense could be a compelling wearable.
What has me excited is the addition of an ECG (electro-cardiograph), which can measure heart activity with a higher degree of accuracy than the optical sensors used on the back of most smartwatches. The ECG will be able to detect heart arrhythmias such as atrial fibrillation (which I suffer from).
There is a but, however, and it’s a big one: Fitbit must get approval from the US Food and Drug Administration. So far, Apple, Samsung and Withings are the only players who’ve achieved this. Then there’s the not so inconsiderable issue of navigating local red tape in countries they sell the Sense in. Samsung’s excellent Galaxy Watch 3 might have FDA clearance for its ECG, but it isn’t enabled in NZ yet.
The Sense ECG works when you place a thumb on its top-right edge and a forefinger on its lower left edge. For those of us with heart issues, it could provide a useful way of accurate record-keeping for cardiologists.
Dodgy tickers aside, the Sense will also have some nifty stress management capabilities. It will also have an electrodermal sensor that can measure sweat levels, allowing it to monitor how stressed/unstressed you are. Covering its watch face with your palm should see the Sense measuring stress levels.
Built-in quick meditation exercises on the Sense and meditation reminders are intended to help drop stress levels. Stress management on a fitness tracker/smartwatch isn’t anything new. What is interesting is that Fitbit says the Sense should (in theory), score your stress levels more accurately. It’ll do this by factoring in heart rate variability, epidermal sweat levels, sleep, and physical activity. The Fitbit app also gets a Mindfulness tile as well as a few extra bells and whistles for Fitbit Premium subscribers (Fitbit bundle six months of Fitbit Premium subscription with the Sense).
ECG aside, the Sense has a new sensor which is paired with a new algorithm to scan your heart rate. Unlike the ECG, it will work continuously in the background to check for heart rates that are too high, too low, or irregular. As with the Fitbit Ionic, the Sense will come with an in-built GPS, which will handily allow wearers to track runs (and their holiday whereabouts). A skin temp sensor will also tell you if you are running a temperature.
In short, about the only thing missing from the Fitbit Sense when it comes to health and fitness is a hologram doctor, circa Star Trek. Health and fitness aside, it’s shaping up to be a capable smartwatch. In addition to notification alerts and the usual smartwatch goodies, Fitbit has baked in the Google Assistant. Capping things off, Fitbit says the Sense should deliver up to 6+ days of battery life.
Fitbit is also talking up possible future capabilities for the Sense. One of the more compelling involves their COVID-19 study. It used the data of 100,000 Fitbit users to see if respiration rates, heart rate, and other info gathered by Fitbit wearables could help detect COVID-19. While no official results have been released, preliminary results are looking good. Fitbit found that it could detect respiratory infections at least one or two days before the onset of symptoms. The findings and data have been submitted for peer review, and it’s possible that the Fitbit could help in the early detection of illnesses.