Alphabet has been secretly working on a new health smartwatch that doesn't need to be charged every day

Android WearAndroid WearNot the Verily smartwatch.

Alphabet’s life sciences spin-off, Verily, is working on a health-tracking smartwatch and has built “hundreds” of prototypes.

The smartwatch is equipped with a digital watch face and a circular e-ink display, according to Antonio Regalado, writing for MIT Tech Review, who inspected the watch during an interview.

The watch won’t need to be charged every day, says Brian Otis, CTO of Verily. The company is also designing its own chips to keep power usage down.

Other smartwatches, including the Apple Watch and most running Google’s Android Wear software, use LCD or OLED screens. They can display colour, but use a lot more power than E-Ink.

“The big push now is low-power,” Otis told the Technology Review.

The device is packed with medical sensors for collecting data on what’s going on in the body. One sensor measures an ECG, which is the electrical rhythm of the heart. Other smartwatches, like Apple’s, can’t do that yet.

But don’t expect to walk into a Best Buy and purchase one of these smartwatches anytime soon. It sounds like they’re geared towards medical researchers, for use in studies like Verily’s Baseline study. Verily is pitching medical researchers on services that combine hardware and big data analysis to supercharge clinical studies.

Lots of competition

Alphabet, Verily’s parent company, is not the only tech company looking to gain a foothold in the competitive healthcare business.

Startup AliveCor currently sells a portable ECG sensor that pairs with an iPhone app and has developed an Apple Watch ECG band that’s currently awaiting regulatory approval. It’s being led by Vic Gundotra, a former Google executive.

And Apple is eyeing the space too, with several software frameworks, such as ResearchKit, targeted directly at clinical researchers.

The company is reportedly working on an expansion to its heath software and its own smartwatch that would allow data gleaned from Apple products to help doctors make diagnoses, a recent report in Bloomberg revealed.

It, however, may be backing away from adding medical sensors to its consumer smartwatch. Apple believes that a “glucometer or blood-pressure sensor would only help a small percentage of users,” according to the Bloomberg report.

Know anything about Verily or Apple’s health gadgets? Email the author at [email protected]

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