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Sensors explored: Pulse oximeter

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Taking a closer look at the tech inside your wearables, Via Wareable

Wearables just keep getting smarter. As more and more tech gets crammed into those smartwatches, sports watches and fitness trackers, it’s easy to lose track of exactly what that new tech does and what they can actually measure that will be of any use to you.

One thing we are starting to see crop up in devices is the pulse oximeter. Garmin’s put one into one of its sports watches for the first time, Fitbit’s done it too and a few years ago Withings packed one into a fitness tracker.

So why is putting a pulse oximeter inside of a wearable a big deal? We explore what it is, how it works and what it’s going to bring to the wearable party.

What is a pulse oximeter?

When we talk about pulse oximeters or pulse oximetry, we are delving into the realm of medical tech and talking about a device that’s able to measure oxygen levels or oxygen saturation in the blood and your heart rate. They can also be used to measure pulse rate too.

That tech usually takes form of a clip-on device that you place on your finger, a toe or even on your ear lobe. It uses red and infrared light sensors to detect the volume of oxygen levels, detecting changes in those oxygen levels. It measures the volume of oxygen based on the way the light passes through your finger and delivers the data to the device’s screen that will tell you the percentage of oxygen in your blood.

An oxygen saturation percentage greater than 95% is considered to be a normal reading. If you see a score of 92% or less, then it could be time to further investigate and find out whether it’s related to an as yet undetected health issue.

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