WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
Epileptic seizures are debilitating, but they can also be fatal, this latest breakthrough pre-warns people before they have them.
Embrace is a smartwatch of a different kind. It’s able to tell time, analyse sleep patterns, and, more crucially, it’s also able to tell if you’re about to have an epileptic fit. Using Artificial Intelligence (AI) the new wearable looks for signals of what’s known as a “Grand Mal” seizure, and then sends an alert to a designated family member or caregiver. Made by Empatica, which was spun out of MIT, Embrace first went on sale in Europe last December, but this week, in a major milestone for the product, the US Food and drug Administration (FDA) approved it for sale throughout the US.
A grand mal seizure is usually associated with epilepsy, and is characterised by severe convulsions, as well as a loss of consciousness, they’re also called “Tonic-clonic Seizures” and can last as long as two to three minutes.
A study that included Embrace studied 135 people over 272 days monitoring 40 tonic-clonic seizures and the wearable detected all of them. But medical wearables are not just for hospital use any more. Smartwatch bands and other products are helping people detect irregular heart rhythms, take EKG’s from their wrist and even predict the onset of illness, and there are reports that Apple’s Tim Cook has been using a wearable to track his blood sugar as well.
Embrace is now on sale for $249 and requires a monthly subscription of $9.90, but in order to currently get seizure alerts, wearers based in the US must first be enrolled in the company’s clinical trials, according to Empatica’s web site.
About 3.4 million people in the US have epilepsy, including 470,000 children, which can bring about grand mal seizures, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and, as far as they’re concerned, Embrace is a huge step forwards in helping them manage them condition, keep them safe and avoid harm.