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'Game changing' Apple Watch Series 4 can detect potentially deadly falls

Margi Murphy
- Bloomberg

Apple’s new smartwatch can detect if an elderly person has fallen and will call emergency services if they lie motionless for more than one minute, a feature that has been heralded as a "game changer" in the wearable market. 

The Apple Watch Series 4, announced during the annual iPhone launch in the Steve Jobs theatre in Apple’s Cupertino campus on Wednesday morning, uses an accelerometer and gyroscope to spot warnings signs of a fall.

Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer said: “Identifying a fall sounds straightforward, but it requires a large amount of data and analysis.

Apple's new Apple Watch Series 4 Credit: Bloomberg

“With falls, there’s this repeatable motion pattern that happens. When you trip, your arms go forward; but when you slip, your arms go upward.”

The new Watch is packed with a raft of health features that American Heart Association president Dr Ivor Benjamin described said could vastly improve healthcare services, including an electrocardiogram (ECG) monitor using electrodes implanted in the back of the watch-face.

Jeff Williams, chief operating officer of Apple reveals a new Watch Series 4 feature that detects if someone has fallen and rings emergency services if they lie motionless for more than a minute Credit: Bloomberg

Electrodes in the watch take a snapshot of heart fluctuations, which are stored and can later be shared in an easily readable format. It marks the first time an ECG product has been available over-the-counter to consumers and allow patients to share potentially critical health data to their doctors, giving medics a snapshot into their health day-to-day, not just on the date of their appointment.

In addition, the Watch’s heart rate sensor  can detect irregular heartbeats or atrial fibrillation, a heart condition which can result in heart disease or stroke.

The Watch Series 4 features an Electrocardiogram monitor - the first over-the-counter ECG of its kind Credit: Bloomberg

All the heart rate features have been cleared by US regulator the Food and Drug Administration. Apple said it plans to bring the features to other countries around the world.

A nod from the FDA is considered an extraordinary achievement in the notoriously tricky world of medical regulation. Ben Wood, smartphone analyst at CCS Insight noted that Apple’s ability to navigate the “arduous process that no other consumer wearable company has” was proof of “Apple’s leadership in wrist-worn tech”.

Apple also unveiled the new iPhone XS, an upgrade to the iPhone X, and Apple's largest smartphone, the iPhone XS Max.