U.S. regulators have approved the first piece of consumer tech for a neurological condition: a medical-grade smartwatch that monitors for dangerous seizures and sends an alert to summon a caregiver’s help.
The wrist-worn sensor tracks many of the same things as a FitBit or an Apple Watch, but the new device has one important feature that other wearables do not: It also detects surges in skin conductance, an indicator of disturbances in the nervous system that are triggered during an epileptic attack.
These spikes in electrical activity originate in the brain, but can be measured noninvasively on the surface of the skin. The Embrace smartwatch records these electrical signals along with 3-axis accelerometer data, and uses a proprietary algorithm to signal when someone is having a convulsive seizure.
During an attack, the device’s square face vibrates, a ring of LEDs spins, and an alert gets sent via Bluetooth to a smartphone in the wearer’s pocket. The app then sends a distress signal—either a text message or phone call—to one or more pre-specified caregivers.