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Smartwatches: A New Kind of Medical Research

The MIT Technology Review reports on a health monitoring watch released by Verily,a health-based subsidiary of Google. The “Study Watch” is designed exclusively for applications in medical research. Although the face displays only the date and time, the device will collect the biometric information of study participants, including “heart rate, electrocardiograms, movement data, as well as a measure of the electrical conductance of the skin.”

The introduction of this product marks a new advancement in medical studies, because it will enable researchers to consistently collect data of many individuals in order to monitor patterns in their health. The article specifically cites the use of the “Study Watch” in Verily’s “Baseline” study in which the watch will monitor the biometrics of 10,000 to 20,000 healthy individuals. Additionally, the watch will be used in the Personalized Parkinson’s Project that will track the progression of the disease in individuals in the Netherlands.

The simplicity of the watch will allow researchers to overcome the wearability hurdle, which the largest obstacle facing the adoption of wearable technology. Bastiaan Bloem, a researcher for the Parkinson’s study said, “We work with a lot of wearables, but this one stick outs in terms of user friendliness and the look.” Consumers have historically been wary of letting tech companies track their health data, which is why Verily changed their approach and began marketing to researchers. This method enables them to rely on the reputation of the researcher rather than of the company itself.

Read More MIT Technology Review.

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