People living with epilepsy know that a seizure can strike any time, and they go through their days with this uncertainty: They could be walking down a city’s bustling streets or at home all alone when a seizure strikes.
This SmartWatch connects these people to their networks of caregivers at moments of crisis by detecting the shaking limbs associated with convulsive seizures and sending out automatic alerts. “For both the patient with epilepsy and the caregiver, this product gives incredible peace of mind,” says Anoo Nathan, CEO and founder of Smart Monitor, the startup behind this device.
The SmartWatch currently pairs with Android phones that run its app; the user must have that phone nearby so it can send out the alert via text message. The alert can also include the epileptic person’s GPS coordinates. Nathan says the iPhone-compatible version will debut in late March.
About 2.7 million people are living with epilepsy in the United States, and some one-third of those people can’t completely control their seizures with medication. Spectrum just featured the most cutting-edge alternative to pharmaceuticals: A smart brain implant that fires an electric pulse when it detects signs of an oncoming seizure, hopefully preventing the seizure entirely. (One woman with a brand new brain implant described to Spectrumher adjustment to her cyborg life: Lying awake one night she wondered, “Did my head just beep?”)
For some people who aren’t good candidates for surgery, however, and whose seizures can’t be stopped by medication, the SmartWatch could help. The wristwatch constantly registers the user’s motions, and its algorithms crunch the data to look for a pattern of movement indicative of a seizure. Because it responds to movement, the watch can only help patients who suffer from convulsive seizures, not those who experience “absence seizures” in which they seem to zone out and lose awareness of their surroundings.
Nathan is careful to say that the device isn’t yet FDA-approved to “diagnose seizures,” but it can “detect abnormal motions.” The company is collecting results from ongoing clincial trials, she says, and aims to get that FDA approval down the road.
Nathan says she originally imagined parents using the SmartWatch to keep an eye on their kids, and indeed, 60 percent of users currently wearing the watch are under the age of 21. However, she says she’s been pleased to find that it can help adults, too. She cites one customer in his 40s who was able to move out of his parents house and into an apartment near friends. “This product provides him with a degree of autonomy and independence he never had before,” says Nathan.
The SmartWatch also collects the user’s seizure data so the user and physicians can review it, providing a record of what happens between doctor visits. While this seems a valuable contribution to the fast-growing mobile health market, we can’t help wondering if this device will survive the introduction of another smart watch that’s gotten a little press, and generated a tiny bit of excitement: the Apple Watch, due for release in April. If some developer comes out with an seizure-detecting app for the Apple Watch, will it shake the SmartWatch right out of business?