Google X, the company’s experimental research arm, has developed a health-tracking band that moves beyond the consumer market and could be utilised in clinical trials or drug tests, Bloomberg reports.
The new band is designed to measure a variety of inputs including heart rhythm, pulse, and skin temperature. It can also track outside factors like noise and light.
The wristband won’t be marketed as a consumer product, Andy Conrad, who heads up Google’s life sciences team, told Bloomberg. Conrad said they intend it to be a “medical device that’s prescribed to patients or used for clinical trials.” Most consumer trackers aren’t fit for research, he said. This one will be different.
This won’t be the first wearable to impact the medical community. People with diabetes have been particularly targeted by tech companies, and a variety of apps exist to help monitor things like blood sugar. According to The Washington Post, there are 1,200 apps for people with diabetes in Apple’s app store — some of which work with wearables. Google itself developed a smart contact lens for monitoring glucose levels.
But Conrad hopes Google’s new wristband will also be used as a preventative measure, to help catch diseases early. “I envision a day, in 20 or 30 years, where physicians give it to all patients,” Conrad said to Bloomberg.
Some health insurance companies, like healthcare startup Oscar, are already experimenting with wearables. Oscar, which raised $US145 million dollars in April, was the first health insurance company to give fitness trackers to its members; the company also rewarded them for taking a certain number of steps per day.
But with the idea of constant monitoring by an outside source — be it a doctor or a health insurance company — comes the issue of privacy. For those with chronic health conditions that require this level of medical scrutiny, this is perhaps a non-issue. But in the future Conrad envisions, one where physicians give Google’s band to all patients, the implications for consumers of private health care are unclear. Where will the data go, and how exactly will it be used? These are questions that will have to be sorted out.
Trials for Google’s wristband will start this summer.
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