Garmin’s new gadget takes advantage of the missing smartwatch feature

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Best known for its smartwatches and GPS navigators, Garmin is breaking new ground in health tracking with its first smart blood pressure monitor: the BPM Index.

The first thing you will notice is that the BPM index (opens in a new tab) is much bulkier than, say, a smartwatch. A likely reason for its size is that the device can fit around your biceps and provide accurate readings. While there is smart watches capable of measuring blood pressure (opens in a new tab), those that do with a cuff aren’t widely available, and those that use pulse transit time “need regular calibration with a conventional home blood pressure monitor,” according to Garmin. Also, Garmin notes, these devices typically can’t “track systolic and diastolic blood pressure” while the BPM Index can.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (opens in a new tab), systolic blood pressure refers to the blood pressure when your heart is pumping, and diastolic pressure is the pressure when your heart is resting. Knowing both is important for heart health. Readings for both measurements appear on the Index’s OLED display with corresponding “SYS” and “DIA” indicators so you know which number is what.

The BPM Index strap can accommodate a wide variety of arm sizes from nine to 17 inches (22 to 42 cm) in circumference. It’s powered by four AAA batteries that will last nine months before needing to be replaced, according to Garmin.

FDA cleared

On the software side, the features of the BPM Index allow for multiple users and ways to create reports. The device can synchronize with the Garmin Connect mobile app (opens in a new tab) via Wi-Fi where you can view blood pressure readings in detail, add notes and view your device’s general history. The collected data can also be viewed as a weekly, monthly or yearly report on the app.

Up to 16 different user profiles can be created for the BPM Index on the Connect app. Each profile will track readings for each person using the device. And that data can then be synced with other Garmin Connect apps, so users can read their reports on their devices.

Garmin notes that the BPM Index has been cleared by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which may lead some to believe that it is not “FDA cleared”. Each time a new medical device hits the market, the The FDA tests them to make sure they are safe. (opens in a new tab) If something is “FDA cleared” it means that the device works the same as an already existing device and doesn’t need special “pre-market approval”. “FDA approved,” on the other hand, generally relates to drugs and anything that can have a direct impact on a person’s health.

The BPM Index is available now for $149.99 (US only) at Garmin’s online store (opens in a new tab).

Potential new trend

Garmin may well be the first to capitalize on providing accurate blood pressure monitoring. As stated earlier, most smartwatches aren’t the most accurate at measuring blood pressure, even Apple struggles with technology, specifically accuracy. According to a Bloomberg report (opens in a new tab)Apple wants to add the feature to Apple Watch, but it looks like it won’t happen until 2024.

Huawei, on the other hand, seems to have made this technology work. TechRadar’s Lance Ulanoff recently tried out the Huawei Watch D at the IFA 2022 event where the device took his systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Be sure to check out our coverage.

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