Over the past few years, it’s clear that wearable makers are setting their sights beyond heart rate tracking. More smartwatches and fitness trackers sport SpO2 sensors, for example, as a means of either monitoring for sleep apnea or keeping tabs on stress. But if there’s one ailment most wearable companies are stumped by, it’s blood pressure. After a few years of hinting at it, Valencell, a well-known wearables components-maker, now says it’s only a matter of time before we start seeing blood-pressure monitoring earbuds.
Why now? Well, that’s because Valencell says it’s somehow figured out how to get a teeny tiny PPG sensor—the same optical sensors used in wrist-based wearables to measure heart rate—to measure blood pressure. Accuracy-wise, Valencell says its tech should be on par with automated cuffs, meets the ISO accuracy standards, and should be able to correctly identify hypertension with 89 percent accuracy. To back that up, Valencell said it collected 15,000 datasets from over 5,000 subjects. To take things a step further, Valencell said it then conducted another round of validation tests in accordance with ISO protocol, using data collected by non-Valencell employed nurses. What’s fascinating, however, is that Valencell’s sensor doesn’t require any sort of calibration.