AliveCor launches ECG Apple Watch strap, rebrands product line as Kardia

By Jonah Comstock
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This morning, San Francisco-based AliveCor rebranded its AliveCor Mobile ECG device as Kardia Mobile and unveiled a second, upcoming hardware product, an Apple Watch strap that can take electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) readings, called KardiaBand. The strap is not yet commercially available because it still needs to secure FDA-clearance.

AliveCor also announced new features for the Kardia Mobile app, including HealthKit connectivity. 

While Kardia Mobile (formerly called AliveCor Mobile ECG) requires the user to put two thumbs on the device, the watch strap uses the wrist as one point of contact, so the user just has to put the opposite thumb on the strap to take an ECG. The readings appear directly on the Apple Watch and are run through the same three FDA-cleared algorithms — for atrial fibrillation, normalcy, and readability — that are found in the Kardia Mobile app.

The Apple Watch has a built-in heart rate monitor but is not a medical grade and FDA-cleared device on its own.

“I think of heart rate kind of like a temperature,” AliveCor CEO Vic Gundotra told MobiHealthNews. “If it’s really high, it can tell you something and if it’s really low that can tell you something. But an EKG is a medical grade measurement of the electrical signals of your heart, and that allows you to take a look at your heart’s activity at a much closer level. … You need an EKG to be able to determine whether you’re possible AFib or not. So for people with certain kinds of arrhythmia, this is a big deal. And to be able to have a small portable device where they can just quickly check where their heart’s at provides an unparalleled piece of mind. That’s probably our biggest value proposition today.”

Gundotra is also excited about the new software feature on both the Watch and smartphone apps, which allows users to record a voice memo when they take an ECG. He sees it as akin to telling a doctor how you feel at the beginning of an office visit.

“If you think about when you’re sick, oftentimes people who love you, they’re often the first to tell you ‘Hey, you’re coming down with something’,” he said. “Or if you have a bad day at work, they can often tell that by the tone of your voice. So humans have the ability to pull that data out of the human voice. It’s kind of amazing that we are not using machines to do the same thing.”

At some point, he hopes the feature will be able to detect things like shortness of breath. But for now, it adds audio to the record as well as a text transcription and automatically tags any symptom the user mentions.

“So the next time you’re talking to your physician and you can’t remember ‘Hey why is this EKG so weird from two weeks ago?’ you’ll have your voice annotations right there with you. You can play it for your physician and it’ll bring it all back,” Gundotra said.

The HealthKit integration serves a similar function, allowing the user to correlate their ECG data with things like steps and calories. They can then generate a longitudinal report and share it with their doctor.

Gundotra, who just joined the company last November, said the time for a new brand seemed right as they announced their second product, and that the Kardia branding would set the company up well for some of its future plans. But mostly, he said, it was a longtime coming.

“Frankly, we just had a clunky name,” he said. “When I came into the company and saw the excitement of people who had our product, I noticed that they all called it something different. Some people called it the AliveCor, some people called it the EKG device, it just didn’t really have a name. So as we expand, we now have two different products, it was the appropriate time to just clean it up.”