Verily's smartwatch earns FDA clearance for an EKG feature
Verily, Alphabet's life sciences arm, earned clearance from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for an electrocardiogram (EKG) feature in its smartwatch that allows healthcare researchers to study cardiovascular conditions.
Verily's Study Watch was launched in April 2017 as a tool to improve clinical studies, and an FDA-cleared EKG feature should help Verily garner research partnerships from medical research institutions and providers.
Verily doesn't sell its smartwatch to consumers, so the FDA clearance doesn't pit Verily against the top US smartwatch vendors despite the smartwatch's similarities to their products.
At first blush, adding EKG functionality appears a way for Verily to tap into growing interest for EKG tech in consumer wearables alongside players like Apple, which announced the latest product in its Watch line had an FDA-cleared EKG app in September 2018, and French wearable maker Withings, which launched an EKG-embedded wearable earlier this year.
But Verily primarily operates in a different market than vendors like Apple, Fitbit, and Withings, which still focus on generating revenue from consumer sales; Verily hasn't commercialized its healthcare initiatives, and instead is focused on forging research partnerships with health firms.
But Verily-sister company Google could borrow the EKG tech and join the fray with Apple and Fitbit in the growing wearable market. Rumors have swirled since the summer of 2018 that Google's prepping to launch its own smartwatch, a move that would directly threaten the healthcare plays of Apple and Fitbit.
Google would face an uphill battle in the global wearable market given the head start Apple and Fitbit have in terms of market share and healthcare partnerships. But Android also accounts for the vast majority of smartphone operating systems, a position it could use to drive sales among Android users looking for integration between their mobile device and smartwatch.
If Google were to launch an EKG-equipped smartwatch, it could likely find its niche in a global wearable market that's forecast to grow about 12% annually from 123 million units in 2018 to 190 million units in 2022, per IDC.