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—would possibly add a bioimpedance evaluation (BIA) sensor. For those who’ve by no means heard of BIA earlier than, it’s the identical tech utilized in good scales to find out your physique composition.
The rumor comes by way of Android Authority and Max Weinbach, a tech author with a good observe document of sussing out what’s coming subsequent for Samsung devices. That stated, 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 all the time be taken with a heavy grain of salt, however there are two predominant 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 several types of tissues have increased or decrease electrical resistance. Fats is extra immune to electrical energy in comparison with water, blood, and muscle. Most good 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 rationale you’re requested to put a finger in a selected space on the watch is to finish a circuit. Samsung already is aware of easy methods to ship and browse electrical currents despatched by the physique, so it’s not prefer it’d be an especially heavy raise so as to add physique composition evaluation.
The second purpose is Amazon’s additionally dipping into physique composition with its Halo tracker and app—albeit utilizing a completely totally different technique. Amazon Halo measures physique fats in an especially problematic approach. It requires you to strip to your skivvies and take photos in your cellphone 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 issue 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 cheap to assume Samsung would possibly introduce this sort of characteristic. Amongst flagship smartwatches, we’re additionally within the midst of a “well being tech arms race.” To date, Apple, Samsung, and Fitbit have led the pack. Apple and Samsung are each closely rumored to be engaged on blood glucose monitoring and Fitbit launched an electrodermal exercise sensor with its formidable Sense smartwatch. Nevertheless, BIA is one thing neither Apple nor Fitbit has dropped at the wrist. (Fitbit does, nonetheless, have a sensible 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 foul 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 lots of water, or are dehydrated, that might 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. In brief, BIA is okay for roughly estimating your physique composition over time—however you will get bunk particular person readings.
Giving customers an accessible solution to acquire perception into their coaching or weight reduction efforts is, broadly talking, a very good factor. Nevertheless, there’s lots of nuance to deciphering these leads to a accountable approach. If performed carelessly, like Amazon Halo, you’re presumably handing individuals with physique dysmorphia or consuming problems a harmful instrument.
Samsung has made strides lately to enhance its well being choices, largely to nice success. There have been a number of hiccups, however after reviewing the last 4 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 Massive 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 performed with extra care going ahead.