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Apple Invents Emergency Alert System

Apple has filed a patent for a medical monitor that can sound an alert based on irregularities in a user's temperature, heart rate, oxygen level, or blood pressure.

Brian Buntz

Apple WatchIn its patent filing with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, Apple states that the device can detect "care events" and sound alerts in the case of medical emergencies such as a heart attack or a fall. In addition, the device could alert family or police of events such as car crashes, bike accidents, a mugging, or the separation of a child from the child's caregiver. "For example, a user who has been in a car crash may telephone emergency services for an ambulance. However, in many cases, the user may be incapacitated and/or otherwise unable to initiate communications regarding the care event," the patent filing explains.

The technology would also give the user a certain amount of time to shut off a pending alarm before family, the police, or a local fire department is notified. In the event of a false alarm, a user could turn it off using a voice, motion or gesture or a headshake.

The patent application shows a sketch of the technology being used by a jogger with a fitness monitor on her bicep. The device could send biometric information about users to their iPhone but also potentially send alerts to users' contacts.  

The device could also potentially store medical records or other medical information or obtain the information from other devices. Storing information about a user's blood type for instance could be potentially useful in preparing a transfusion. Or the device could alert authorities if the user is a diabetic to help improve their treatment.

The patent is rather broad in scope, mentioning repeatedly that the technology could work with an array of sensors and could have a "variety of forms" in addition to those described in the actual patent.

According to the patent document, possible sensors that could be used the device could include accelerometers, gyroscopes, cameras, altimeters, microphones, motion sensors, phoyoplethysmogram (PPG) sensors, galvanic skin detectors, global positioning system (GPS) devices, communication components, heart rate monitors, respiratory system monitors, blood pressure monitors, temperatures sensors, or any other kind of sensor.

Elsewhere in the patent filing, Apple claims that the technology could work with essentially any kind of electronic device including smartphones and various computers.

The device could also be used with a variety of other electronic products including the Apple Watch.  

Last year, the Wall Street Journal reported that Apple had initially envisioned the Apple Watch as having medical monitoring capabilities but reportedly abandoned those plans when confronted with regulatory hurdles. Macrumors had reported in 2014 that the Apple Watch would use more than 10 sensors to track health.

Learn more about cutting-edge medical devices at BIOMEDevice Boston, April 13-14, 2016.

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