Apple Watch in future could be equipped with capabilities to alert nearby users if a person wearing the device begins to drown in a water body. According to a new patent application, the Cupertino-based tech giant is working on a feature that will be able to sense when a user is showing “irregular behaviour” while swimming and is in distress underwater by using the sensors present on the smartwatch. Notably, a recent report has claimed that the Apple Watch Series 10 could feature an upgraded display that offers better battery life.

In a patent application filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Apple shared details on how this feature would work and highlighted the need for such a feature. The tech giant said in its application that every year, 3,500 people drown and lose their lives just in the US. Calling it the “fifth most common cause of accidental deaths in the country”, Apple said there is a need for drowning prevention systems.

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Apple’s drowning alert system as shown in the patent application
Photo Credit: Apple

The company’s proposed feature does not introduce any new sensors to detect when a user is drowning, however. Instead, it relies on the existing sensors on the Apple Watch to interpret data whenever the user might be in distress underwater. As per the patent application, the primary trigger for this will be its inertial sensor which will determine if the head, arms, and torso of the swimmer is positioned in a way that suggests irregular behaviour.

This data will then be corroborated with the Apple Watch’s heart rate sensor or the blood oxygen sensor that will determine if the user’s heart rate has suddenly elevated or the VO2 max levels have suddenly dropped, which could indicate that the user is about to drown. The data from the sensors will be run through a special machine learning algorithm to then predict if the user is really drowning.

In case a user is found to be at risk of drowning, the Apple Watch could send an alert to emergency service providers as well as nearby users and lifeguards. The company also highlighted that the system could also share similar alerts in case a child is swimming in a pool and accidentally goes to the deeper end. It is noted that the feature currently exists as a patent application. It is not certain whether Apple will get the patent for this technology, and when Apple Watch devices may carry the drowning alert feature.


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