FCB Health New York, an IPG Health agency, debuted a prototype of a smartwatch band that hears heartbeats regardless of skin tone last week.
The aptly named EQL Band was developed by FCB Health NY and uses electret microphone technology. This is an arterial pulse measurement tool that can hear heartbeats at a 1-2 hertz frequency undetectable to the human ear.
The wearable also uses a cardio stethoscope to isolate and amplify the heart’s low-frequency sound waves emitted by the radial artery in the wrist, according to a company statement.
The EQL Band prototype was shortlisted at the 2023 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in the innovation category and recently received four awards at the London International Awards.
In addition to creating the product, FCB Health NY is partnering with health equity organisation Touch, the Black Breast Cancer Alliance to promote inclusivity for smartwatches that provide cardio health features.
Noting that more than 70 million Americans wear smartwatches and many millions more are likely to adopt wearables to monitor their health in the years to come, the two firms called on tech manufacturers to commit to creating smartwatches that emphasise equal health data for all skin tones.
Dr. Sommer Bazuro, chief medical officer of IPG Health, said in a statement that patients of color have long been overlooked in clinical studies. Bazuro said that despite the technological breakthroughs with wearables, smartwatches have repeatedly been found to provide inaccurate health information for people with darker skin tones, which has major downstream impacts.
Racial health disparities have been a frequent topic of conversation across the industry in recent years as the COVID-19 pandemic had an outsized impact on communities
In addition to the wearable space, another medical device that has been criticised for perpetuating racial health disparities are pulse oximeters. Public health experts have claimed the devices are less accurate for people with darker skin tones and have appealed to the Food and Drug Administration to improve the testing standards for oximeters going forward.
This story first appeared on mmm-online.com.