A patent application published Thursday shows how Apple could someday turn the Apple Watch into a medical device that could monitor all of a user’s vital signs, and automatically dial 911 or send out another type of alert in case of an emergency medical event, such as a heart attack.
As published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Apple’s application for “Care event detection and alerts” provides for a hardware system capable of monitoring its surrounding environment for so-called “care events,” described as any event that necessitates assistance from medical personnel, police, fire rescue or other emergency technicians. For example, the device could be programmed to monitor a user’s heart for an arrhythmia and, upon detection, send out an alert to family or emergency responders.
The Apple Watch would make an ideal device for use as an emergency alert device, due to its built-in sensors and communication hardware that would allow both detection of emergency care events, and transmitting emergency notifications via its connected iPhone.
The patent application describes how an Apple Watch and an iPhone would work in concert to detect an emergency medical event. If the iPhone’s accelerometer detected a sudden change in movement, while the Apple Watch detected a severe change in heart rate, or no heart rate at all, the system could deduce that the user was experiencing a heart attack, and could send an emergency alert to 911, as well as notify selected contacts in a “care list,” or “care circle” about the event.
The system could also send out an emergency alert in the event it detects a car accident, a mugging, or other type of emergency event, as detected by the devices’ onboard accelerometer, heart rate, microphone, GPS or other sensors.
Such as system, Apple notes, would need a large amount of fine tuning in order to avoid false alarms. This could includes some method of “triage” that would escalate notifications based on severity before notifying medical personnel or care circle members.
Apple was reported to be planning to integrate advanced health monitoring features into the Apple Watch, but dropped those plans due to the medical device industry’s tight regulatory requirements. Today’s patent makes it clear that Apple is still looking at developing medical-related capabilities for the Watch, but no time table has been announced for the inclusion of such features in any future versions of the Watch.
The above patent was filed for in September 2015 and lists Martha E. Hankey and James Foster as its inventors.