Imagine this situation: you are on a normal day and suddenly the watch on your wrist alerts you that your heart rate is above normal. You don’t feel anything, but the smartwatch continues to alert you that something is not right. Although this situation seems utopian, the truth is that many wearables monitor your health all the time and they have started to go further: smart watches are – literally – saving lives, and there is no shortage of reports.
In fact, this story is by the influencer Jorge Freire (@nerdpai). The 48-year-old influencer was saved by an Apple Watch Series 5 a few days after Christmas 2019. The story, shared on his Facebook page, went viral, was told on TV news and went further, in Cupertino, California ( USA), more specifically in the mailbox of Tim Cook, CEO of Apple.
Video smart watch special
“I can say that the Apple Watch 5 saved me”
Jorge has owned an Apple Watch since the first, launched in 2015, and he says he uses his watch to program a timer, make a shopping list, send messages and make payments by approach (with NFC), in addition to, of course, monitoring the Your health. To Tecnoblog, the influencer says he bought the device precisely to help during physical exercises in a weight loss process. The relationship with the watch got even closer after the gadget saved his life.
On December 27, I was in São Paulo to deliver a car, then I came back by bus, because I live in Sorocaba (SP), getting off the bus I felt the Apple Watch “shaking” [vibrando] and said that my heartbeat was […] above normal. I said ‘hey, I was sitting until now, it wasn’t possible’.
I was monitoring and I was beating 170/180 beats per minute, very high, even in gymnastics I couldn’t get to that. Then I waited a little, to see if it normalized, it didn’t, I went to the hospital […]. There guys [do hospital pediu para] make the record [de atendimento] and I said there is no way to make a record because my watch is telling me that I have had a possible tachycardia for half an hour and it is not going down. At the time they took me, they did the tests, my Apple Watch’s heartbeat was beating just right in relation to professional equipment, just like it. In this way, they were able to identify, it was nothing serious, it was also a benign tachycardia, which they called [e] I did a lot of exam.
Jorge Freire (Nerd Pai), owner of an Apple Watch Series 6
This situation still generated great curiosity by the medical team at the time, everyone wanted to understand how the watch was able to save Freire’s life. After that, he wrote to Tim Cook and didn’t the executive respond? Cook returned: “I am very happy that you are well now. Thank you for sharing your story with us – it inspires us to keep making progress ”.
This small device not only benefits consumers, because manufacturers have profited a lot from them. Not even the pandemic managed to stop the sales success of the devices – the numbers clearly show this: in May, the Tecnoblog showed that almost 14 million smartwatches were sold in the first three months of 2020, while 11.4 million were sold in the same period in 2019, Strategy Analytics revealed.
Apple continues to lead the way with its popular Apple Watch. Other companies that stand out in this market are: Samsung, Huawei, Garmin, Imoo, among others.
If it weren’t for the clock, I would have a few days to live
Now, another scenario: you go to the doctor and, suddenly, discover that you have a few days to live, but the smartwatch managed to avoid this fatality. This really happened and the great protagonist of this story is the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 that helped Lucas Godinho, 38, not to suffer a heart attack.
I did an update [no Galaxy Watch Active 2] and I went to calibrate to make the pressure measurement […]. I never had a pressure problem […] then I looked at that [a elevação apontada pelo dispositivo] and I thought ‘is something wrong’, ‘is the calibration right?’, ‘is the clock right?’
But the device [de medição] I was discharging [também] and then I started to follow this, every day I was taking the measurement on the watch, several times a day […] and it was peaking. I was seeing the numbers for about two, three weeks and the heartbeat too, the watch makes a comparison when it is higher, lower, and in small exercises that I did, it was possible to notice that the beats were high, as if I running or cycling, and it was actually a simple thing: a walk, a trip to the market.
Lucas Godinho, owner of a Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2
Lucas told the Tecnoblog that Active 2 continued to warn that his blood pressure and heart rate were high, and the most impressive thing is that he felt nothing, a situation very similar to that of Jorge Freire. After a few weeks, Godinho decided to see a doctor and the diagnosis came.
I realized that something was wrong, I needed to see a cardiologist. I took advantage of the fact that these data are all stored, I went to the cardiologist and presented [os dados registrados pelo relógio]. She [a médica] I was surprised it was a watch that had alerted me […]. I said, look, my smartwatch is warning me that my blood pressure is high and my heart rate is high, too […]. She started to see that I was in that situation for weeks […] ordered the exams and in a week and a half later they were able to identify my problem: an obstruction in the left artery […] it was 95% obstructed, it was a matter of days, hours. They can’t even explain how I was working, walking …
How can watches save lives?
Both smart watches and smartbands come with a number of embedded health features. From them, the user can monitor their health on a recurring basis and leave everything synchronized on the smartphone. Thanks to the increasingly advanced sensors, the wearable manages to count steps, track your sleep and stress level as well as deliver more complete experiences, for example, to alert you when your heartbeat is irregular.
When we started talking about smart watches (three, four, five years ago) there was a lot of educational issues, people saw and [pensavam] ‘What is this?’, ‘What’s it for?’. Today […] everyone already knows that, with the smart watch, I can monitor my sleep, monitor my physical activity… You sit there working for hours and sometimes you don’t realize it, you’re so focused that you don’t notice that it’s been two hours, three hours [sentado]… [A pessoa] stood still and that, of course, is not good for health […] Today, you have there [no relógio] all elements, all sensors, that will bring this information, that will monitor your health […].
Renato Citrini, senior product manager for the mobile devices division at Samsung Brazil
During the pandemic, measuring blood oxygen saturation (SpO2) became even more popular in smart watches and there is an explanation for that. It was found that COVID-19 affects the level of blood oxygen (hypoxia), therefore, smartwatches with this approved functionality, could “be used as an oximeter” and help in the detection of the disease.
Another available resource is the electrocardiogram (ECG), which requires authorization from a regulatory agency in each country, in Brazil this release is the responsibility of Anvisa, the National Health Surveillance Agency. To analyze the heart rate, many companies use a technology called photoplethysmography, which detects it through the green LED on the devices.
For those who play sports, the wearables bring other interesting functions for running, walking, swimming, cycling, among others, in addition to having GPS. Here, in particular, come the smartbands that are simpler and more accessible, but deliver the complete sporting features.
As we saw here, these devices are great allies for quality of life, but we must still pay attention to some privacy and even interpretation of information, and the alert is that specialist Vitor Mori, who talked to the Tecnoblog.
Technology advances much faster than legislation and implementations, so I think it’s one thing to pay attention to […] we have to be a little careful about security, privacy and, eventually, a hacking of a database that ends up leaking information from a lot of people. Another thing that worries me is to use this as parsimony and not think that because you are using one of these things, you don’t need to see a doctor or, another thing that is very common, self-diagnosis.
Vitor Mori, PhD in biomedical engineering and postdoctoral fellow at the University of Vermont
In addition, it is important to note that the fact that smartwatches help with health does not mean that the devices can diagnose, nor are they considered medical equipment. This ability to detect possible diseases still generates enormous reflection, but with the advancement of technology, wearables have become great diagnostic aids. But what about in the future? Will they succeed?
I find it very difficult to diagnose it using a single machine. It’s something that needs a human relationship […]. What it can give you are clinical markers: you have a high heart rate [por exemplo]. The more accurate the equipment, the more accurate the measurement, the better, and the most important question is: what are we going to do with this information […]. Without the work of a specialized doctor it gets a little complicated.