Cardiologist sues Apple over its heart-reading Apple Watch tech

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Apple Watch alerts user of irregular heart rhythms in sleep
Apple Watch's atrial fibrillation tech may have helped save lives.
Photo: Apple

A New York University cardiologist has filed a lawsuit against Apple, relating to its atrial fibrillation-detecting heart-reading tech for Apple Watch.

Apple Watch’s heart-reading tech has been hailed as a major breakthrough. Its ability to alert users of irregular heartbeats has been validated by experts from Stanford University. The problem? That according to Dr. Joseph Wiesel, it’s infringing on his patented work.

Dr. Wiesel was awarded a patent in March 2006, which he says represented “pioneering steps” in monitoring for atrial fibrillation detection. The patent describes ways to monitor “irregular pulse rhythms from a succession of time intervals.” Wiesel says that he contacted Apple in September 2017 about a partnership. However Apple “refused to negotiate in good faith to avoid this lawsuit”.

He is asking for the court to stop Apple from using his patented technology within proper permission. He is also seeking royalties. Apple has yet to comment on the lawsuit. Wiesel filed the suit at federal court in Brooklyn.

Apple Watch’s heart-reading tech

Heart-reading tech has been part of the Apple Watch since the start. The first-gen Apple Watch used green LED lights paired with light‑sensitive photodiodes to achieve this. With these sensors it was able to detect the amount of blood flowing through your wrist. The amount of blood in your wrist increases when your heart beats. This allowed Apple to measure frequency of heart beats.

Since then, Apple has continued to hone the technology. Apple Watch Series 4 introduced new ECG functionality. This is enabled by electrodes in the Apple Watch’s back crystal and Digital Crown. When a user places their fingertip on the Digital Crown, it forms a circuit allowing the Watch to read their heart’s rhythm in just 30 seconds.

Tim Cook has frequently talked about Apple’s health ambitions. He has even gone so far as to say they could wind up being Apple’s biggest contribution to humanity.

Source: Bloomberg