Back in 2018, Apple introduced Fall Detection with the Apple Watch 4 — a feature that has the rare distinction of being a quite literal life saver. And now it looks like Apple is working on ways to improve it with future wearables.
But first, a little recap. With current wearables — and presumably the upcoming Apple Watch 6 too — Apple looks out for a series of metrics that might indicate a fall, and then sends you a notification to ask if you’re okay. If you don’t respond in a timely manner, the Apple Watch contacts emergency services on your behalf, telling the responder that its owner has fallen and providing a location so an ambulance can be dispatched. It then gets in touch with your emergency contacts for good measure.
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Now it looks like Apple wants to go further. First spotted by the eagle-eyed patent watchers at Patently Apple, a new series of patents examines how the company might build on this by using extra data the watch can figure out about you as additional helpful information for the emergency services.
“Information about previous health conditions of the user can help emergency services identify what type of medical attention is needed, and what type of technicians to send to the location of the user,” the patent suggests. “Health metrics that may be computed using the electrodes include, without limitation, heart functions (ECG, EKG), water content, body-fat ratios, galvanic skin resistance, and combinations thereof.”
Eagle-eyed readers will note that not all of the metrics listed above are things that current Apple Watches are capable of measuring, which in itself is an interesting assessment of where the company might be looking to innovate in future. But even if galvanic skin resistance isn’t added right away, your iPhone’s accompanying Health app might be able to help out, if you or your smart scales have been dutifully filling in gaps like age, height, weight, BMI and so on.
So while currently a basic call to the emergency services from your Apple Watch could tell them your location and that you’ve fallen, a future wearable could share all kinds of additional data: your age, weight, heart rate, BMI and how often you exercise. Sure, that kind of information being shared may make you feel a bit squeamish, but if it’s a matter of life and death then most people will probably agree that their data privacy should take a temporary back seat.
Of course it’s important to remember that just because Apple patents something, doesn’t mean it will necessarily ever end up in a commercially available product. That said, this one feels a bit more likely, given it’s building on technology that already exists and that Apple has been rightly praised for. We may not see it in the Apple Watch Series 6, but fingers crossed we have something for the inevitable Series 7...