Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Google smartwatch captures health data passively

Steve Rogerson
April 27, 2017



Aimed at medical research programmes, Google’s latest foray into medical wearables is the Study Watch from Verily, formerly known as Google Life Sciences.
 
The ability to capture health data passively can be critical to the success of continuous care platforms and clinical research.
 
“Study Watch represents another step in our targeted efforts to create new tools for unobtrusive biosensing,” said Verily’s David He, technical lead, Tushar Parlikar, product manager, and Harry Xiao, technical programme manager, in a blog post. “While numerous wearables exist in the market, we have a specific need outside of these offerings: namely, the scalable collection of rich and complex datasets across clinical and observational studies.”
 
The architecture of the watch was tailored for high quality signals and seamless usage, with consideration of the needs of observational studies, such as how continuous wear impacts a user’s experience. These design and functionality decisions were reinforced by feedback from users, researchers and clinicians.
 
Multiple physiological and environmental sensors are designed to measure relevant signals for studies spanning cardiovascular, movement disorders and other areas. Examples include electrocardiogram (ECG), heart rate, electrodermal activity and inertial movements.
 
A battery life of up to one week is said to have driven better user compliance during longitudinal studies.
 
Large internal storage and data compression allow the device to store weeks’ worth of raw data, thus relaxing the need to sync the device frequently. The processor supports real-time algorithms on the device.
 
The firmware is designed to be robust for future extensions, such as over-the-air updates, new algorithms and user interface upgrades.
 
The display is always on so that time is always shown. The display is low power and high resolution for an appealing look and a robust user interface. Only time and certain instructions are displayed. No other information is provided back to the user.
 
Because the investigational device stores health data, all data are encrypted on the device for security. The encrypted data are uploaded and processed in the cloud using Verily’s backend algorithms and machine learning tools. This infrastructure is highly scalable and can serve population studies consisting of large volumes of data.
 
Study Watch will be used in several observational studies conducted by Verily’s partners, including the Personalized Parkinson’s Project, a multi-year study to identify patterns in the progression of Parkinson’s disease and provide a foundation for more personalised treatments. Also, Study Watch will be used in the forthcoming Baseline Study, a longitudinal study exploring transitions between health and disease.
 
“In the future, we plan to incorporate Study Watch in a broad array of health applications,” said the blog post.