Garmin, Actigraph Partner Up To Make Wearables Health Metrics More Useful

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Garmin Health and ActiGraph are partnering on clinical trials that could eventually result in a much more accurate and comprehensive system for monitoring health metrics using wearables. The companies are hoping to find their solution by complementing Garmin's fitness-centric smartwatches, fitness bands, and other wearables with ActiGraph's well-established CentrePoint data analytics platform. ActiGraph's solutions are already widely used for academic research, clinical trials, and medical-grade activity and sleep monitoring in the scientific community. So the goal is to formulate a consumer-level product that can assist in that same high-level monitoring and tracking for use in tandem with both traditional and digital medical services as well as for real medical diagnostics.

Background: Organizations across the scientific and wearable industry, including independent medical research groups, have expounded on the potential of wearable tech in fields of medicine almost since their inception. Plausible use cases that have been explored on that front are wide-ranging and not at all limited to more standard metrics linked to heart health, blood pressure, and oxygen saturation. For example, concepts have also been put forward that might eventually provide diabetic patients with real-time blood glucose readouts, among other uses. Those have been designed to either rely on more common blood draws that occur on an automatic basis or through novel analysis relying on the chemistry of sweat.

So, Garmin is just one example of a company seeking to enter its wearable devices more firmly into the medical side of health tracking over the past year, teaming up with a variety of partners in the process. Some of its more prominent partners have included the University of Kansas Medical Center (KU) and Cardiogram. The latter of those team-ups basically served to bring support for Cardiogram's heart data tracking application for Android to Garmin-built wearables. Garmin's partnership with KU went much deeper than that and explored ways to track and address both sleep apnea and atrial fibrillation. Typically, smartwatches and fitness wearables already track metrics including heart rhythms, rates, and similar metrics. Garmin's research in that area in collaboration with KU looked at how those metrics might be used to detect and monitor those health problems and others.

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Impact: Compared to previous studies conducted by Garmin and its partners, the latest research is yet another step forward since it is set to include clinical trials. That means that the technology will be put to use in real-world circumstances but with appropriate controls in place. As a result, it should be better able to ascertain whether the wearables the company already makes can be used for monitoring that adheres to standards for true medical tracking. Garmin and ActiGraph will likely consider improvements that can be made to that technology moving forward too, in terms of the wearable technology itself and the sensors included but also in terms of software optimizations to improve accuracy.  Whether or not Garmin's current range of smart bands and watches can be used to meet those goals remains to be seen but the partnership should nevertheless bring the world one step closer to real-time active health monitoring.