Biomedical engineers have demonstrated that while different wearable technologies, like smartwatches and fitness trackers, can accurately measure heart rate across a variety of skin tones, the accuracy between devices begins to vary wildly when they measure heart rate during different types of everyday activities.

As wearable technologies are increasingly used to monitor patients’ health and collect digital biomarkers for clinical research and healthcare, this study highlights the need to better understand their accuracy and determine how measurement errors may affect research conclusions and inform medical decisions, according to the researchers. The study also measured how the devices performed during various types of activity.

The study found that there was a bigger drop in accuracy during activities that involved wrist motion that could introduce motion artifacts, like typing, and they saw a drop in accuracy during deep breathing, which could indicate the devices locking onto cyclic behavior, like breathing, rather than heart rate.

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