David Becker/Getty Images
En español | Jeff Ray was touting a new HeartGuide device, used to monitor blood pressure, when his own reading hit the danger zone: 166/110. A normal blood pressure reading is about 120/80, according to the American Heart Association.
“Really high,” said Ray, 45. “If that were my normal blood pressure, I’d be concerned.” But it's not, so he wasn't. Ray, from suburban Chicago, was showing off this “wearable,” a monitor that looks like a smart watch, at CES (formerly called the Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas.
Because it's his business — he works for Omron Healthcare as executive director of business and technology — Ray knows that blood pressure fluctuates during the day and can be affected by diet, sleep patterns, activity level and exercise. His higher-than-normal rating may have been due to the hubbub of the largest tech show in the world, and the attention being paid to his HeartGuide, which the Food and Drug Administration in December cleared as a medical device.
For tech and entertainment news, plus more, get AARP’s monthly Lifestyle newsletter.
HeartGuide isn’t the only wearable health device making hearts beat fast at CES. Move ECG is another. The pretty analog smartwatch by Withings gives consumers an alternative to last year’s hit Apple Watch Series 4, partly because it’s relatively cheap at $130. It’s also easy to get an electrocardiogram reading — simply touch both sides of the bezel. No app launch is required, but to see the ECG in real time, or to read it later, you will need to download the app. The information supplied could be helpful to those who want to monitor heartbeat for atrial fibrillation (A-fib), arrhythmia or other conditions.
“Wearables” are not just about watches, however. AerBetics’ bracelets and pendants use tiny nanotech gas sensors to check the glucose levels of diabetes patients and warn them when a hypo- or hyperglycemic episode is coming on. It can notify caregivers of the episode, too. And now there’s actual clothing that can monitor your health. A cotton-and-Lycra vest by French-based Chronolife, which does not yet have approval from the FDA, has sensors meant for monitoring electrical activity, breathing, body temperature and ominous physical activity such as falls. There's no need to charge the vest, and you can toss it in the washing machine. Then there is the Hupnos (Greek for “sleep”) app, invented by company founder Curt Ray (no relation to Jeff Ray), because his wife complained about his snoring. “It works with your smartphone,” he said. “The smartphone listens for your snoring, analyzes it, learns it, runs it through artificial intelligence and communicates with a mask.”
Ray says the snorer will get a gentle vibration to encourage him or her to roll to a side, which decreases snoring. “If you’re still snoring, it will increase your exhalation pressure through a patented valve so that it dilates your airways. And then you can’t snore because your airway is larger and it can’t vibrate against itself.” Ideally, Hupnos won’t wake you up as it optimizes your snooze. “We start with a very small vibration and gently increase it until you roll over, so that the next morning you won’t remember whether you’ve been woken up,” Ray said. “You wake up and say, ‘Wow, I feel refreshed,’ but you never notice that the mask did anything."