- The iBeat Heart Watch is a $US250 device that can monitor your heart rate and call paramedics in an emergency.
- The watch can also act as a panic button if you’ve fallen, have another type of medical emergency, or feel unsafe.
- iBeat’s founder, Ryan Howard, came up with the idea for the watch after a friend died suddenly in his sleep.
The idea for Ryan Howard’s startup, iBeat, was born, like many are, out of something deeply personal.
On the evening before Thanksgiving three years ago, a childhood friend of Howard’s died suddenly in his sleep.
For Howard, who is now 43, it was a wake-up call.
“That really pulled at me from the mortality side,” Howard told Business Insider. “It’s probably something I think about more than most people. Having a friend pass away so young, especially from more of like a natural cause, was really moving to me.”
Howard started looking around for a device that he could wear at night that would wake up his partner if he stopped breathing. But it didn’t exist, at least not in the form that Howard was looking for. The closest thing he could find was a LifeAlert device, which is primarily intended for senior citizens and isn’t able to detect something like a heart attack or stroke.
So he decided to build his own.
Three years later, Howard and his team have released the iBeat Heart Watch, a $US250 wearable that’s intended to look like a standard wrist watch, but is capable of saving your life in an emergency.
A watch that calls 9-1-1
The iBeat Heart Watch is primarily a heart-rate monitor. The company says the watch collects your heart data 100 times per second, which is then monitored by iBeat’s artificial intelligence.
If the watch detects something abnormal, it will alert you. If you confirm that something is indeed wrong – or don’t respond within 10 seconds – the watch will then alert emergency services, as well as your designated emergency contact.
Plus, if you’re having another type of medical emergency, if you’ve fallen and are unable to move, or if you’re concerned about your safety, you can also use the watch as a sort of panic button by pressing a button on the watch face.
The iBeat watch has GPS and a cellular connection built in, and it doesn’t rely on your smartphone by way of Bluetooth. It does, however, have a corresponding smartphone app, where you can add your medical history, medical conditions, and known allergies, which will automatically be provided to paramedics in the case of an emergency.
That service, which includes cellular service, costs $US20 per month.
But there’s one issue with the watch: In the event of a heart-related emergency, paramedics can’t always arrive quickly enough. According to the Centres for Disease Control, getting CPR as quickly as possible increases your chances of survival – iBeat’s research has found you have between three and five minutes to get CPR after a cardiac event.
“To solve for the time gap, we came up with something relatively novel,” Howard said. “We basically created a group of CPR-trained good Samaritans.”
The company created an app – which Howard says will go live next month – called Heart Hero, which trains you in CPR. If you’re in close proximity to someone having a cardiac emergency, you’ll get a push notification asking if you can help. The second closest person will be directed to the nearest automated external defibrillator, or AED.
Age 50 and up
There are a few questions that come to mind when considering the iBeat Heart Watch.
First and foremost: Who is this product really for? And when should you start wearing it?
“I really think it’s age 50,” Howard said. “That’s the market we target, pretty much exclusively.”
Anyone with heart problems or heart disease could certainly buy the watch if they’re younger than 50, Howard said, but he doesn’t think most it’s a product for everyone, or even most people. It’s mostly intended for an older crowd.
Another issue is the Apple Watch, the undisputed queen of the wearables sector. The Apple Watch has a heart-rate monitor, and Apple is actively working on its own heart disease study. Why not just build the iBeat platform on the most popular watch brand in the world?
“We tried to, but the sensors on the Apple Watch are really optimised for fitness,” Howard said. “I’m not saying they’re a toy, but they’re not medical grade, per se, and they’re not super accurate.”
Howard said iBeat is going through the process of having its watch approved as a medical device by the Food and Drug Administration. And beyond sensor shortcomings on the Apple Watch Howard and his team also found that users were getting about three false positive a day with the Apple Watch.
Plus, the Apple Watch only gets about a day of battery life – Howard says iBeat gets up to four days – and the Apple Watch has to be taken off when you want to charge it, while the iBeat Heart Watch can be charged while it’s still on your wrist.
But that’s another question: Will people actually want to wear this watch all day, every day?
“I think it’s an elegant-looking product,” Howard said. “But I think people would wear something far uglier to stay alive.”
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