Sleep Apnea affects millions of people around the world. And Fitbit wants to help by alerting its users if and when it affects them. But this isn’t for public service as the company would have you believe. Their pivoting. Seen as a fitness tracker and nothing more for the longest time, the company now wants to get into the medical device field.
Fitbit stock price has been significantly affected, and it’s once dominant role in the wearables sector has seen it’s share cut by more than half. With competitors from both sides of the aisle. On the one hand, you have the Apple Watch with its myriad of apps, on the other you have the Garmin Fenix 5 being the big daddy of fitness watches. Fitbit’s are losing appeal. Seen by Fitbit shipments sinking by 35% in Q1 from the year before.
Sleep apnea is a big market. $6.7 billion by 2021 according to ‘Research and Markets’. And the thing is detecting Sleep Apnea can already be done by leveraging the sensors already in place in most HR monitors. By using optical technologies that shine a light into the skin. Blood that is highly oxygenated is red but gets bluer with less oxygen. The technology tracks a dip in oxygen levels during the night, a possible indicator of sleep apnea.
Fitbit is working with sleep labs to study how its prototypes perform in detecting sleep apnea. But they’re not alone in the game. From start-ups to other major manufacturers, devices with medical usages are the next in wearable evolution.
The next hurdle will be getting the devices approved as medical devices. Something the FDA doesn’t allow easily.