Apple Watch 6 measures SpO2 and VO2 Max

The sixth series of the smartwatch includes new health and wellness features.

The new device, available from Friday 18, includes a sensor for measuring blood oxygenation. The sensor emits red and infrared light and measures the amount of light reflected from the wrist. SpO2 is calculated using algorithms that detect the color of the blood and indicate the amount of oxygen present.

Apple Watch 6 takes the measurement in 15 seconds. The function operates in the background by taking periodic readings, even while sleeping. The data is recorded in the Health app.

Apple is supporting three new clinical trials based on the new device:

  • A study on asthma control using physiological signals, in collaboration with the University of California, Irvine and Anthem.
  • A study on how metrics, including oxygen in the blood, can be used to manage heart failure, in collaboration with the University Health Network and the University of Toronto.
  • A study on how heart rate and blood oxygen can signal early onset of respiratory diseases such as influenza and COVID-19, in collaboration with the Seattle Flu Study and the University of Washington Medical School.
  • At the new smartwatch presentation event Apple also announced that the new version of the operating system, WatchOS7, will use existing sensors to measure VO2 Max values. This parameter, which is considered a strong predictor of overall health, will be calculated using the watch’s motion sensor and heart rate sensor. A function will soon be released allowing users to be alerted of a drop in VO2 Max.
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