A UK man has his Apple Watch to thank after the popular wearable’s fall detection feature alerted paramedics following a sudden collapse while at home.
Joe Plumb, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was nine years old, was at home having a regular day when he had a hypoglycemic attack.
“It was a typical lazy Sunday in November, from what I remember,” writes Plumb in a recent issue of UK news magazine Metro. “I was doing the housework and getting sorted for the week ahead. It was going smoothly until the next thing I knew, I had a full team of paramedics calmly working around me as I slowly regained consciousness.”
Fall detection was first introduced in 2018 with the Apple Watch Series 4, and uses sensors and gyroscopes onboard the device to detect whether the user has had a hard fall while wearing the watch. If it does in fact detect a fall, it uses haptic vibrations, an alarm, and an on-screen prompt which can enable the wearer to either contact emergency services, or dismiss the alert by tapping “I fell, but I’m OK” or “I did not fall”.
If the prompt is ignored, and the watch detects that the wearer has been immobile for roughly one minute, a fifteen-second countdown is initiated during which more alarms and vibrations of increasing intensity try to alert them. At this stage, if the alerts are not acknowledged or dismissed, the Apple Watch automatically notifies emergency services and any emergency contacts with the wearer’s location, medical ID, and information on any medications they may be taking.
“When I came round, I saw medical personnel surrounding me, inserting a glucose IV drip into my veins,” writes Plumb. “I saw my dad watching closely with worry on his face. Luckily, he had arrived in time with a key to let everyone in so my door didn’t have to be broken down.”
Apple has been continuously expanding on the healthcare capabilities of its Apple Watch series with every passing iteration. 2020’s Series 6 iteration introduced a blood oxygen sensor that captures readings using reflected light, with Apple announcing at the time that it planned to use these readings and the data they generated to develop other health applications down the road.