Years ago, I remember walking into the Apple Store to check out the new Apple Watch. I was expecting this to be the Dick Tracy radio transmitter watch that I had been waiting to see since I was nine years old. I walked over to the display, picked one up and thought to myself “This is the stupidest thing anyone could spend $500 on!” It was like an iPod with a rubber band attached to the back. I left the store empty handed.
Five years later, I find myself with a wife and daughter who expect me to be around for quite some time, so I have been focusing more on my health. Smart watches now focus on health. These little devices so much more attractive to me as a consumer of shiny electronic things. It’s funny how close I now am to shelling out $500 for something I once called “an iPod strapped to your wrist with an elastic band.” I may have been a little harsh on the design.
Now days, you can’t walk into a store with an electronics section without bumping into a display for a smart watch. Apple, Samsung, Nike, Garmin, Fossil, and Fitbit are all fighting for that prime wrist real estate. Every year they come out with a new wrist mounted device with a bright and shiny screen, that is twice as bight and shiny as it was the previous year. They all promise to sync to your phone and track how many steps you take in a day, but only Apple and Fitbit are focused on your actual health, or at least that’s how their marketing themselves.
Fitbit was the pioneer with the original wrist mounted tracker that would flash five dim lights as you approached your 10,000th step of the day, and not much else. It spoke to you via flashing lights, could barely hold a battery charge for a week, was not waterproof and most certainly could not tell you the time of day. But it got you to stand up and move around once an hour. It made you conscious of the time you were spending in front of the computer and gave you incentive to move. Especially when you found out your friends also had these trackers, and you could see their steps on the app. Competitions began to see who could get the most steps in.
When December 2018 rolled around, every company had their own version of the Fitbit tracker or the Apple Watch, but this is when Apple started to take things seriously. With the 4th version of their smartwatch they installed something unheard of at this point: an Electrocardiogram(ECG/EKG) feature. For myself, this was a game changer. Prior to this I personally had to undergo three EKGs. The first two were nothing, I went into a lab, they stuck some wires on my body for five minutes and sent me on my way. The third EKG was a little more invasive. I had to go to the hospital to have these sensors with double sided tape attached to my chest and wear a computer and battery pack around my waist like a belt. I had to wear that contraption for 24 hours, I had to sleep in it, go to work in it and avoid water and exercise at all costs, probably to protect the equipment, and not for fear or electrocuting me with that battery belt around my waist. When it came time to return the equipment to the hospital, I remember swearing loudly as tears started to well up in my eyes, as I sat in my car trying to remove the sensors that were taped to my chest. Usually they’ll shave these areas beforeapplying the tape and sensors. This time they forgot. I’m sure my heart rate was spiking towards the end of that test, so you can imagine my delight that I no longer have to go through that hell the next time I need to undergo an EKG. All I have to do is plunk down $500 for the latest Apple Watch, which just sits on my wrist, and doesn’t require me to wear a belt of batteries and computer parts, nor does it require my chest be wired up with electrodes and tape, plus you don’t have to avoid water for fear of the hospital coming after you for the cost of their medieval heart monitoring equipment. Honestly, I’m amazed they didn’t chase me down with a jar full of leeches screaming: “YOU HAVE TOO MUCH BLOOD! YOU NEED LEECHES!”
Just to confirm I wasn’t getting my hopes up I did a quick Google search for the phrase “Apple Watch Saved My Life.” This bought up more news articles and videos than I expected to see. The technology in the Apple Watch paired up with their ECG/EKG app really is able to detect a change in change in the rhythm of the heart and will send an alert to the user that says something along the lines of “Something isn’t right. Get to the hospital!” If it’s too late and you collapse, the built-in fall detection will give you an option to call emergency services, or decline. If you don’t respond and it detects you have been immobile for about a minute, it will call them for you. Once it’s done calling 911 for you, it sends a text to the emergency contacts in your phone saying you fell down and emergency services are on the way.
For those of us with vulnerable or elderly loved ones, this watch provides more peace of mind to me than any of those Medical Alert Systems, as it cuts out the middleman (the monitoring station operator) and calls 911 directly. This technology could keep active seniors living independently and take some of the strain off of nursing homes with long waiting lists. If paired with the SmartWatch Inspyre app, the fall detection can even give peace of mind to those that suffer from epilepsy and are afraid of what will happen if they have an episode when no one is around.
All fitness trackers have now become smartwatches. The competition between all these brands has helped consumers as they constantly strive to outperform one another. I truly believe that the Apple Watch will save lives with its fall detection and ECG/EKG feature. I’m just waiting for Fitbit to catch up and provide the same features for less.
But I’m still waiting for one of these things to become that Dick Tracy watch I saw on the big screen when I was nine.