Tech

Washing hands with watchOS 7: Apple has been researching detection for years

The new version of the Apple Watch operating system comes with a surprising new function: watchOS 7 can control hand hygiene for the first time. However, the manufacturer has not “just” implemented the fresh feature to react to the corona crisis, but has been researching it for several years. The explained Apple manager Kevin Lynch, who is responsible for the software for the computer clock, now told US media.

As Lynch now stated, the detection is technically complex: You had to go through a long “trial and error” until the procedure worked, says Lynch. The watch can even detect the sound of soap on your hands. Users can be reminded every hour to clean their hands according to WHO rules. According to Lynch, the computer clock uses machine learning models to recognize hand washing. It should not matter whether the user uses a water-saving tap or a normal one. The watch’s memories should also not annoy the user, Lynch says – it also gives out loud if the cleaning is not carried out long enough.

Apple’s smartwatch can help users wash their hands regularly from autumn: the watch should record the typical hand movements via the acceleration sensors, and the noise of the faucet is also checked using a microphone, the manufacturer explained. The sounds are not “automatically saved or recorded”. A timer reminds the user to wash their hands for 20 seconds, this can “help prevent the spread of diseases”. Apple Watch also logs the frequency and duration of hand washing in the Health app on the iPhone, according to Apple.


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In terms of detection of COVID-19, Apple currently has no details to report. Technically, it would be conceivable to extract disease patterns from heart rate and the 1-channel ECG that the watch has brought with it since Series 4. According to Apple’s Health Vice President Sumbul Ahmad Desai, Apple has not yet specifically investigated corona tracking with the Apple Watch, but supports “initiatives in this area”. This means medical research with the clock around the coronavirus.


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