A patent application describes how the Apple Watch and iPhone could work together to detect medical emergencies like a heart attack, and automatically call 911.

While the patent wording doesn’t specifically name either the Apple Watch or iPhone, the meaning of one electronic device cooperating with another one seems pretty clear.

An occurrence of one or more “care events” is detected by an electronic device monitoring environmental data and/or user data from one or more sensors. The electronic device transmits one or more alerts regarding the detected occurrence to at least one other electronic device. In some cases, the electronic device may cooperate with at least one other electronic device in monitoring, detecting, and/or transmitting.

Apple says that the setup could detect a range of emergencies, and take appropriate action depending on the severity – ranging from sending an email to a family member at the low end to calling 911 in the most urgent of cases …

Care events may include a car crash, a bike accident, a medical emergency such as a heart attack or an aneurysm, separation of a child from the child’s caregiver, a dementia patient becoming lost, an avalanche, a fall, a mugging, a fire, and/or any other event for which a user may require medical, police, family, fire rescue, and/or other kind of assistance.

One specific example given is a combination of a sudden movement detected by an accelerometer coupled to loss of a heartbeat reading. In this case, the system would use the combination of factors to suspect a heart attack.

There’s an obvious risk of false alarms, and the patent describes a variety of ways in which these can be avoided. These range from asking the user to respond first (“such as by voice, motion or gesture such as a head shake captured by camera”) to using geographic information.

The electronic device may utilize location information from a GPS device to determine that the electronic device is present [at] a bungee jumping facility. Based on such a determined location, the electronic device may determine that a care event has not occurred unless the acceleration data indicates that a bungee accident has occurred.

Apple has to steer a careful balance when it comes to medical applications for the watch to avoid the need for FDA approvals. While the FDA has said that it is taking “an almost hands-off approach” to fitness-oriented wearables like the Apple Watch, Tim Cook has indicated that concern about this is why Apple didn’t want to build too many sensors into the Watch itself.

The Apple Watch is already assisting with ResearchKit health studies, such as the SleepHealth app launched last week.

Via AI

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Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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