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News, Technology, Wearables

Google’s Integrated ECG Sensor

Kenton Reynolds

Kenton Reynolds, Writer
@uxconnections

The new Google Pixel will pioneer a seamlessly integrated oximeter inside the rear facing camera.

Users will be able to discover their heart rate by simply placing a finger on their rear facing camera and within seconds will see their pulse. This uses physical photoplethysmography (PPG) which has also been seen in the likes of the Smasung Galaxy S5 through S10. However, Smasung and other smartphone creators have always used a visibly sensor on the back of the phone. Though it’s not awkward, it is aesthetically obvious and ruins the smoothness of the phone in being a single colour. Google have a new approach. The rear facing camera holds the phone’s sensor within it, meaning no extra external eyesores are required.

The technology itself is nothing groundbreaking, it’s the same green light scan that’s used on countless devices these days as health monitoring is becoming more fashionable. It’s the way that Google have been able to integrate rather than add on. The scanner does not look like an additional medical feature that’s been sellotaped onto the side of the phone, it’s part of the phone; integral to its use and integrated with its design.

The respiratory rate monitor is groundbreaking, however. With all forms of input devices becoming exponentially more precise, the front facing camera is able to measure the user’s respiratory rate. Not through infrared cameras or other forms of sensors, but by monitoring the movement of the user’s chest to the degree of single pixel’s worth of rise and fall as the user inhales.

Such tech has not been too successful commercially. Though there is a drive for more health monitoring in smartphone and associated wearable devices, there is an equal desire for ease of use. The whole reason that wearables are taking over the tech industry is the advantages of having your phone on a screen that is even easier to see. It’s about reducing the effort expended when reaching to your phone to a simple flick of the wrist to see your watch. With this in mind, you can understand why people are not too taken with having an ECG sensor built into the phone; you have to go to the effort of scanning yourself regularly. Whether consumers can’t remember or can’t be bothered, they just don’t want to have to go out of their way to take readings. That’s why people that really want monitors that are easy to use are opting for wearable ones that measure your vital signs constantly without needing to be turned on.

Regardless, this new feature on the next generation of Google phones is getting plenty of media coverage, with Google themselves flaunting it at consumers hoping it will entice further sales of their growing line of smartphones. The Google Pixel’s market share has been rapidly growing since it was first introduced in October 2016. Though it may not be the most popular of additions, it can only add value to the device and, from a techie’s perspective, it’s a pretty impressive monitor that they’ve integrated seamlessly into their device.

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