Today the US FDA has approved the first medical device accessory for the Apple Watch range. It’s a watch strap called Kardiaband, it’s made by a company called AliveCor, and it serves as an EKG reader for your wrist. This is a pretty solid development, considering that EKG machines are usually only available in doctors’ offices and hospitals, and are mainly used after life-threatening events.
The Kardiaband, tied with AliveCor’s new software feature called SmartRhythm, can give you insight into your heart rate and potentially detect abnormal heart beats and atrial fibrillation (also known as AFib). When it tells you there’s an issue, you can send the readout to your doctor to get a professional opinion and hopefully prevent a heart attack or stroke in the making.
To obtain an EKG reading from the Kardiaband, you just touch the sensor on the strap for 30 seconds. That’s it.
Technically the heart rate sensor built into the Apple Watch could do the same thing, but Apple doesn’t want to put its wearable through the very long FDA approval process (which could even take a year or more). In lieu of the FDA certification, the watch itself can at most alert you that your heart rate is unusually high, but isn’t allowed to provide an actual diagnosis, unlike the Kardiaband.
The AliveCor Kardiaband is available now for $199, but you will have to also pay a $99 annual subscription to fully unlock its functionality.