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Google unveils its health wearable

Published on 24/06/15 at 09:50am
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Google is already in the process of advancing a suite of applications known as ‘Study Kit’

Google has developed a health-tracking wearable that is not for the consumer market but rather designed to be utilised in clinical trials or drug tests. 

The US search giant’s research arm Google X told Bloomberg that not only will the device measure heart rate, pulse, and skin temperature on a regular basis – it will also measure external information like sun exposure. 

It is said to be designed specifically for use in medical settings, so will not be geared toward consumers looking to track fitness activities as do the majority of wearables on the market. 

Andy Conrad who heads up the life sciences team at Google has said: “Our intended use is for this to become a medical device that’s prescribed to patients or used for clinical trials.” 

He notes that most existing devices are just not rigorous enough for research, and tech falling into this bracket could well be the current market leader Fitbit which to date is beating off competition from Apple’s watch and other wearable tech from Android and Microsoft

Google last year bemoaned the tough regulations around the healthcare market and even indicated it would not be proceeding forward in this area. This seems to have been a momentary complaint given the healthcare-based deals it went on to sign, including most notably the creation of its healthcare business Calico

But Conrad hopes Google’s new wristband will also be used as a preventative measure to help detect diseases at an early stage. "I envision a day, in 20 or 30 years, where physicians give it to all patients," he said. 

In doing that the company would help doctors tackle the problem of reliably tracking the health of patients away from hospitals. Consumer fitness trackers do not offer the medical-grade accuracy often required, and patients can not be necessarily relied on to report their own health details. 

Apple is attempting to solve a similar problem with its ResearchKit platform for clinical trials, but Google is already in the process of advancing a suite of applications known as ‘Study Kit’ that enable users to collect and share health information with researchers. 

This latest wearable will surely be linking into Study Kit which so far comes in the form of Android and iOS apps along with a Chrome extension, currently only available to a limited number of people registered in a study the firm is conducting. 

A spokesperson for the Google has said trials to test the band will start over the summer, and that it may also look for a manufacturing partner.

Brett Wells

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