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Apple's latest Watch can sense falls and heart irregularities

It's like a high-tech version of the "I've fallen and I can't get up" gadget.
Steve Dent
Steve Dent|@stevetdent|September 12, 2018 1:43 PM

The current Watch 3 is already pretty health-centric, but Apple has taken it to a new level with its latest model. Thanks to a new electric heart sensor built into the backside, the Watch Series 4 can not only detect a low heart rate but also act as an electrocardiogram (ECG). That means it can sense a dangerous condition known as an atrial fibrillation and warn you to talk to your doctor. The Watch Series 4 has received clearance from the FDA and is the first over-the-counter ECG app offered directly to consumers, Apple claimed.

It checks your ECG in the background, and while it won't catch every instance of fibrillation, it could help people who don't even know they have an issue. Apple brought American Heart Association President and cardiologist Dr. Ivor Benjamin onto the stage, and he said the feature could be valuable for certain users. "In my experience, people often report symptoms that are absent during their visits. That is why this information is vital," he said.

Apple also unveiled another interesting but completely different safety feature for the new Watch. Thanks to a new accelerometer and gyroscope, it can detect when you slip or fall. It detects not only your downward motion but also when your arms are flying up in a typically defensive stance. In other words, it's a new, more high-tech version of the Life Call "I've fallen and I can't get up" device.

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Watch Series 4 can tell the difference between a slip and a fall, a programming feat that wasn't easy to figure out, said Apple's Jeff Williams. You can set it up to automatically call emergency services and contact your loved ones if you're immobile for at least a minute. It seems like overkill if you're young and athletic, but it could be an extremely valuable feature for the elderly -- or clumsy.

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Apple's latest Watch can sense falls and heart irregularities