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May 4, 2018

New patents suggest Microsoft Band fitness tracker may still be on track

by John_A

It looks like the apparently canceled Microsoft Band fitness tracker may not be so canceled after all. Microsoft has been awarded two new patents specifically related to health and fitness tracking, and the images in those patents look suspiciously like other iterations of the Microsoft Band.

Here’s a quick rundown of the new patents, and what they could mean for an upcoming fitness tracker, if Microsoft is working on one.

Ring-shaped skin sensor

This patent is a continuation of a patent that was filed by Microsoft in 2014, and describes the use of an electrically conductive skin sensor that could be used to measure things like stress levels and other metrics. According to the patent, two skin sensors may be used to ensure that there’s always contact with the skin — as depending on the shape of a wrist, it may be hard to maintain continuous contact with just one. The patent even indicates that the skin sensors may be “made large and knobby,” so that contact is always ensured.

Blood pressure estimation

It seems more and more like tracking blood pressure is the next major step for fitness tracking. Plenty of third-party devices work with the Apple Watch to detect blood pressure, but based on Microsoft’s patent, blood pressure could soon be tracked straight from a fitness tracker itself.

The patent highlights tech that can estimate blood pressure — so it may not necessarily be as accurate as some need. For the average consumer, however, who probably doesn’t often get their blood pressure checked, it could prove to be very helpful. The tech itself uses a number of metrics for the estimate, including the user’s medical history, time-varying elements, and other contextual data, as well as measurements of “radial pulse pressure” or “aortic pulse wave velocity,” both of which, the patent says, often parallel actual blood pressure.

Because the system may be heavily influenced by artificial intelligence, it may not always be totally accurate — so if this tech comes to light it’s possible Microsoft will warn against using it for medical purposes.

It’s important to note that just because Microsoft has been awarded these patents, that doesn’t mean that the company will end up using them — but it does mean that the company is still thinking about fitness tracking, and could at some point launch a new device.

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