The rumor mill surrounding Samsung’s next-gen smartwatches has been completely buzzing these previous few weeks. The most recent contends that Samsung’s subsequent flagship—the Galaxy Watch 4—may add a bioimpedance evaluation (BIA) sensor. If you happen to’ve by no means heard of BIA earlier than, it’s the identical tech utilized in sensible scales to find out your physique composition.
The rumor comes through Android Authority and Max Weinbach, a tech author with a decent track record of sussing out what’s coming subsequent for Samsung devices. That mentioned, there’s not a lot else to go on. Weinbach saved issues snappy in his tweet, merely stating “Galaxy Watch4. BIA sensor.” Rumors and leaks ought to at all times be taken with a heavy grain of salt, however there are two principal causes to assume this one won’t be completely bunk.
The gist is BIA works by sending a weak electrical present by your physique. Relying on the impedance or “resistance” that sign encounters, you possibly can estimate physique composition as various kinds of tissues have larger or decrease electrical resistance. Fats is extra proof against electrical energy in comparison with water, blood, and muscle. Most sensible scales utilizing BIA, as an illustration, declare to measure physique fats, muscle mass, water, and sometimes, bone density. To do that, you want a pair of electrodes—one to ship out the present, and one other to obtain it, thereby creating a whole circuit.
That ought to sound acquainted, because it’s additionally how superior smartwatches—just like the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3—take ECG readings. For ECGs, the explanation you’re requested to put a finger in a selected space on the watch is to finish a circuit. Samsung already is aware of ship and browse electrical currents despatched by the physique, so it’s not prefer it’d be a particularly heavy raise so as to add physique composition evaluation.
The second cause is Amazon’s additionally dipping into physique composition with its Halo tracker and app—albeit utilizing a very totally different technique. Amazon Halo measures physique fats in a particularly problematic manner. It requires you to strip to your skivvies and take photos in your telephone to get an estimate of your physique fats share. You’re additionally proven a 3D mannequin of your physique that comes with a slider, so you possibly can see the way you’d look with minimal physique fats and a six-pack, or a excessive share of physique fats. The corporate claims its technique is very correct and similar to medical lab assessments, although accuracy isn’t the problem with Halo.
So provided that one other main tech firm is dabbling with physique composition, and the very fact it wouldn’t be an enormous technological raise, it’s affordable to assume Samsung may introduce this type of function. Amongst flagship smartwatches, we’re additionally within the midst of a “well being tech arms race.” To this point, Apple, Samsung, and Fitbit have led the pack. Apple and Samsung are each closely rumored to be working on blood glucose monitoring and Fitbit launched an electrodermal exercise sensor with its ambitious Sense smartwatch. Nevertheless, BIA is one thing neither Apple nor Fitbit has delivered to the wrist. (Fitbit does, nonetheless, have a wise scale that makes use of this tech.)
The factor is, whereas this might give Samsung a leg up, it’s additionally wading into murky territory. Measuring physique composition is, by itself, not a nasty factor. Metrics don’t have any morality. Nevertheless, BIA is not the most accurate measure of physique composition, though it’s the most simply accessible to customers. For instance, for those who drink loads of water, or are dehydrated, that would throw off your BIA measurements. Medical strategies, like DEXA, air displacement plethysmography, and MRIs, are extra correct however are costly and require you to go to a lab. Briefly, BIA is okay for roughly estimating your physique composition over time—however you will get bunk particular person readings.
Giving customers an accessible strategy to acquire perception into their coaching or weight reduction efforts is, broadly talking, a great factor. Nevertheless, there’s loads of nuance to decoding these ends in a accountable manner. If completed carelessly, like Amazon Halo, you’re presumably handing individuals with physique dysmorphia or consuming problems a harmful device.
Samsung has made strides lately to enhance its well being choices, largely to nice success. There have been just a few hiccups, however after reviewing the last four Samsung smartwatches, I can say every watch has been higher than the final and Samsung itself has taken care to adjust to regulatory our bodies just like the FDA. Personally talking, Samsung has a greater probability of pulling off physique composition options than Amazon, because it has far more expertise in well being tech. Nevertheless, it’s nerve-wracking to think about Huge Tech wading into the extremely nuanced and controversial relationship between body fat and health. If this Pandora’s field must be opened, right here’s to hoping it’s completed with extra care going ahead.