The Google X research division has given birth to a number of interesting projects over the years, such as Google Glass and Project Tango, but the division’s most recent project is the first one that could actually be truly helpful. Currently unnamed, the company has developed a health-tracking wristband that could potentially aide clinical trials and drug tests by monitoring people’s health and giving that information over to researchers. All of this would be voluntary, of course.
Google Inc.’s life sciences group has created a health-tracking wristband that could be used in clinical trials and drug tests, giving researchers or physicians minute-by-minute data on how patients are faring. The experimental device, developed within the company’s Google X research division, can measure pulse, heart rhythm and skin temperature, and also environmental information like light exposure and noise levels. It won’t be marketed as a consumer device, said Andy Conrad, head of the life sciences team at Google. “Our intended use is for this to become a medical device that’s prescribed to patients or used for clinical trials,” Conrad said in a telephone interview. Doctors, researchers and drugmakers have long craved a way to continuously track patients’ vital signs outside of a lab. Yet creating a device that’s easy for patients to use, while also capturing rich, accurate data has been a challenge, said Kara Dennis, managing director of mobile health at Medidata, a New York-based firm that specializes in data analytics. Google offers health-monitoring smartwatch features in its Android Wear software platform for consumers, through partners such as LG Electronics Inc. Apple Inc. and others also have smartwatches and devices with health features. Yet most existing consumer devices aren’t rigorous enough for research, said Conrad.