The company behind innovations like the iPod, iPhone and iPad may be looking to do something even bigger--potentially saving lives. A recent report in the San Francisco Chronicle says Apple has been working with audio experts on technology that can predict heartattacks. The idea involves sensors that would "listen" to the sound of blood in the arteries and detect abnormalities. "The idea of listening for what they're describing as turbulent flow, which can be associated with a blocked artery, is exciting but I think in reality is going to be very challenging," says Dr. Colin Barker, a cardiologist at Houston MethodistHospital.
Dr. Barker sees several challenges associated with trying to predict heart attacks, starting with the timing of any warning. "Once you get turbulent (blood) flow, you may be beyond the point where you're predicting the heart attack--you may be in the actual throes of a heart attack," he says. "You can also get a lot of what's called false positives, meaning the device goes off....say your watch was going off all the time beeping, saying you might be having a heart attack, that could be a pretty stressful situation." Dr. Barker tells KTRH that it would be revolutionary if Apple could pull this off, but that is a very big 'if.' "People have been working on ways to predict heart attacks for years, and even the very invasive methods are hard to do," he says.
If the technology does eventually make it to market, don't expect is as part of the App store on your iPhone or iPad. In order to monitor your body, the sensor would have to be part of a wearable device. As usual, Apple is not divulging anything about its plans. However, industry experts are already predicting the company's next big debut item will be a wearable "smart device"--some are calling it the iWatch. It is still too soon to know when or if this type of heart attack sensor will be a part of that. "I think it’s the wave of the future, I think there's gonna be a lot of opportunity for this," says Dr. Barker. "But I just wouldn't look for it to be available at an Apple store near you anytime soon."