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Stressed? Fitbit's new smartwatch makes 'Sense' of it

Alvin R. Cabral/Dubai
Filed on August 25, 2020 | Last updated on August 26, 2020 at 04.23 pm
Fitbit's goal is to make health data accessible to everyone from their wrist.

New device backed by in-house research to help users manage health better

Fitbit knows that we are in stressful times, so they've decided to make sense of it.

The wearable pioneer on Tuesday announced its new smartwatch, the Fitbit Sense, which the San Francisco-headquartered company says is its most advanced yet - developed with the help of its own research.

On the Sense is the world's first electrodermal activity (EDA) sensor on a smartwatch, designed to help manage stress. EDA, as defined by the Encyclopedia of Behavioural Medicine, reflects the output of integrated attentional and affective and motivational processes within the central nervous system acting on the body, serving as a biomarker of individual characteristics of emotional responsiveness.

Other key features of the Sense - revealed during a virtual presentation - include advanced heart rate tracking, an on-wrist skin temperature sensor and a new ECG app. The last, at the moment, is only available in the United States upon clearance.

The Sense is pegged to have up to over six days of battery life. It also comes with a free six-month trial of Fitbit Premium membership.

"Our mission to make everyone in the world healthier has never been more important than it is today. Covid-19 has shown us all how critical it is to take care of both our physical and mental health and wellbeing," Fitbit co-founder and CEO James Park said.

"We are breaking new ground with our wearables...most importantly, we are making health accessible, surfacing new data that you may only get once or twice a year at the doctor's office, that you can use to focus on your holistic health and wellness, at a time when it's needed most."

Fitbit, quoting Gallop research, says stress is a global issue, with one in three people experiencing a lot. If unmanaged, its physical strain can be a factor in the development of a number of health issues.

The EDA Scan app is used by placing the palm over the face of the Sense to detect small electrical changes in the sweat level of the skin. Measuring EDA responses can help understand the body's response to stressors and help manage stress.

At the end of a session, an EDA response graph can be seen on-device and in the mobile app to gauge the progress over time and reflect on how one feels emotionally.

The also new Stress Management Score, meanwhile, calculates how the body is responding to stress based on heart rate, sleep and activity level data; a higher score indicates that one is showing fewer physical signs of stress. Fitbit Premium members will get a detailed breakdown on how the score is calculated, which consists of over 10 biometric inputs.

The Fitbit Sense also adds a new skin temperature sensor to detect changes to wellbeing that may potentially be a sign of a fever, illness, or the start of a new menstrual phase. Wearing the device when asleep, meanwhile, regularly measures skin temperature variation to see trends.

Early findings from Fitbit's Covid-19 study suggest that changes in some health metrics can be detected by Fitbit devices simultaneously with the onset of Covid-19 symptoms, and in some cases even before.

"Wearables may be able to play an important role in the early detection of infectious diseases by acting as an early warning system for our bodies, which is critical to slowing the spread of Covid-19 and to better understanding disease progression," said Eric Friedman, co-founder and CTO of Fitbit.

"Over 100,000 Fitbit users joined the study so far, and we've found that our algorithm can detect nearly 50 per cent of Covid-19 cases a day before the onset of symptoms with 70 per cent specificity. This research shows great promise to help us understand and detect Covid-19, but can also serve as a model for detecting other diseases and health conditions in the future."

Fitbit also introduced the Versa 3, the newest addition to Fitbit's most popular smartwatch family with new health, fitness and voice control features, including built-in GPS, and the Inspire 2, among its affordable trackers that have now has Active Zone Minutes, over 10 days of battery life and a free one year trial to Fitbit Premium.


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