eXtensions - Wednesday 21 September 2016

Apple Updates and Health Data on iPhones: Withings Blood Pressure Monitoring Device (Bangkok Post, Life)

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


A brief look at the updates from Apple released last week, that included changes in iOS 10 to Health Apps. Making use of the features available I tried the Withings Blood Pressure Monitor, linking the device via Bluetooth to the iPhone to add another input to personal monitoring.

Late News: Overnight the latest release of Apple's operating system for Macs, now called macOS (previously OS X), was made available on the Mac App Store for download.

The iPhone 7 was released last week and carriers were reporting higher pre-orders than any iPhone before. Apple also put out several software updates last Wednesday. I spent all that day and part of Thursday catching up. Apps were being updated too, taking advantage of some of the new features. On Thursday I was still finding out what was new and where some features had been hidden.

As well as iOS 10, there was the WatchOS 3 release and an update to tvOS as well. On the Mac, an update to iTunes was released which included several changes to playlists as well as new Radio Stations in Apple Music. macOS Sierra arrives this week.

I had been looking forward to the feature in iOS 10 that allows apps to take photographs in RAW (DNG) format. I use RAW on my DSLR cameras and this gives me much more flexibility than compressed formats like JPEG images. Out of the three apps I have that were updated, Manual and Obscura Camera allowed me to use this feature, while I could find no change with the third. The iPhone camera app does not have RAW capabilities although some hope it will come later. I am also looking forward to releases of other photography and editing apps that will use this.

Apple Watch app Apple Watch app Apple Watch app

Apple Watch App on iPhone - Watch, New Faces and Dock

The Apple Watch was much changed with several new Watch faces among the new updated features. I selected two or three from the iPhone Watch app. A big change which confused me initially was the way some apps were now accessed. Before, scrolling the screen upwards would make data like Heart Rate available, but this now only shows Watch controls.

Breathe Those screens are now accessed through the side button which had previously been used for VIPs and friends. Although I added a number of my contacts to this, I am not sure if I ever used it. Pressing the button brings up the apps. The order in which they are shown can be changed in the Watch app on the iPhone in "Dock".

An addition to Watch OS is the Breathe feature. I always sit for a minute before leaving my home: something I picked up when riding motorcycles. Occasionally, Breathe will appear and I will stop what I am doing. The display icon expands and contracts. When I am asked to breathe in, haptic feedback feels as if a purring cat were resting on my wrist.

The iOS 10 update had major changes to how health data is displayed. A new page shows data recorded for the day. As each pane is thinner, more can be displayed onscreen. Tapping one shows the entire data set. Like before, information for Day, Week, Month and Year are available.

Health App Health App

There is considerable interest in health apps. Companies other than Apple are increasingly involved. Google announced recently a link with Sanofi for blood-glucose control systems; and Philips is expanding into health-related technology for the "on-demand consumer", something that Dr Richard Milani outlined to me last month.

He had mentioned some Withings products, such as scales: important for post-operative monitoring. These link to the iOS Health app and send data to a hospital so that the patient and healthcare professionals can monitor changes. Although such devices are thin on the ground here, I saw the Withings Scales (and other devices) last week in Siam Discovery Center, Floor 2; and in Central Pinklao.

Withings Scales Withings Blood Pressure Monitor

Withings Scales in Siam Discovery (left) and Withings Wireless Blood Pressure Monitor

One device not found here is the Withings Wireless Blood Pressure monitor. I ordered one from Amazon and this arrived last week. The cost was $103.99 (plus shipping). It links to iPhones (or Android devices) via Bluetooth. I set up the Withings app with personal details, also allowing it to access my health data. .

In use, starting the device, letting the iPhone and Withings app recognise it, display instructions then measure blood pressure worked fine. I could start the blood pressure monitor from the iPhone and, as it tightened on my arm, watch as diastolic and systolic pressures were checked. Data was recorded in the Withings app and, after a short delay, the Apple Health app too.

Blood Pressure Blood Pressure Withings App

Starting the app first and then trying to check pressure was not so straightforward. The app has so many details and panels that on a couple of occasions I quit the app and began again, sometimes waiting for the "discoverable" light to go out so I could restart. Most times, it worked right away.

Withings Blood Pressure Monitor Withings Blood Pressure Monitor

Withings Blood Pressure Monitor

This is a device which may be critical in home-care for the chronically ill. It can be used for a "Test" user as well as any registered users, so might be useful in offices or schools. Although this is not cheap, it is not easy to put a value on health. Self-monitoring is becoming more common. With the recording of data it is easier to gauge patterns or changes in a patient's condition and to plan for longer-term health care.

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. He is now continuing that in the Bangkok Post supplement, Life. He can be followed on Twitter (@extensions_th)



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