ECG monitoring by Vagus smartwatch is first to link to cloud for AI analysis
Health monitoring from home is now a lot easier and more informative following the launch of the Vagus ECG Smartwatch.
The gadget performs a 30-second electrocardiogram test via a smartwatch app. Data gathered by smartwatch health apps is typically analysed on a user’s smartphone, but Vagus uploads it to a cloud domain for deeper analysis with its own AI tools. Results are sent back to the user’s watch and phone in under 10 seconds.
“ECG technology is now 150 years old,” says Gustaf Kranck, Vagus’ CEO and co-founder. “Doctors continue to perform the procedure as they always have done and it amounts to a serious disregard of valuable patient health data and time.
“The Vagus method is much more precise, providing more information about the diaphragm muscle, the heart, the lungs, and the autonomic nervous system.”
Apple has sold 80 million ECG-capable Apple Watches, but data has been limited to pulse measurement and the detection of atrial fibrillation.
The secret behind Vagus is an electrical-conduction effect initially explained by Dr Daniel Brody in the 1950s. Since it is difficult to detect the effect from normal (chest-based) ECGs, it was not used in any practical applications until adopted by Vagus. Eight years ago, Kranck discovered the revolutionary effect of the breathing measurement when recorded as a ‘hand-to-hand’ ECG – with the right hand clasping the left hand – and combined with controlled breathing and cutting-edge analytics. The signal in the Vagus ECG test is a very precise measurement of the movement of the diaphragm muscles as we breathe.
Gathering this data encouraged Kranck to dive further into the mysteries of the autonomic nervous system, of which the Vagus nerve is the most important part. The Vagus nerve links the brain and gut and is the main component of the parasympathetic nervous system: you can stimulate the healthy function of the vagus nerve through deep, slow belly breathing.
“ECG technology is now 150 years old,” says Kranck. “Doctors continue to perform the procedure as they always have done and it amounts to a serious disregard of valuable patient health data and time. The Vagus method is much more precise, providing more information about the diaphragm muscle, the heart, the lungs, and the autonomic nervous system.”
Data gathered by smartwatch health apps is typically analysed on a user’s smartphone, but Vagus uploads it to a cloud domain for deeper analysis with its own AI tools. Results are sent back to the user’s watch and phone in under 10 seconds. Vagus has already performed more than more than 20,000 user tests and now boasts the world’s largest database of controlled-breathing ECGs.
“As our method had never been used before, we had to develop many new indices and parameters for interpreting the data,” adds Kranck. “For instance, the breathing and cardiac smoothness indexes – RSS and CSS – are something nobody had done before, but they are very useful in diagnostics and monitoring. Most of our indices are in the 0-100 format, where 0 is bad and 100 is great.”
He adds: “For our neural-network AI development, we therefore now have more than 30 different kinds of data points as input for our self-learning equations. This exceeds anything done before with wearables or ECGs.
“The Vagus method utilizes 1,000 times more data than traditional ECG devices, which only detect the heartbeat and ignore all other data. In information terms, traditional ECG apps use the equivalent of just 150 of the 15,000 data points collected during a standard 30-second Apple Watch ECG recording.
“Thanks to the statistical, machine-learning, entropy-based and AI-analytics methods we have developed, Vagus uses 100 per cent of the available data points.”
Vagus, which is based at St John’s Innovtion Centre and in Finland, has already performed more than 20,000 user tests and boasts the world’s largest database of controlled-breathing ECGs. Throughout the pandemic, the company has been able to see fluctuations in data for users who caught Covid-19 and Long Covid, including indications of myocarditis (heart inflammation) and other heart conditions. This data is now being used in a Long Covid study with Sweden’s premier medical university, Karolinska Institutet, to improve treatment outcomes from the disease.
“When a person has lung inflammation, the diaphragm does not move as it should,” says Kranck. “For people with postural tachycardia syndrome – an abnormal increase in heart rate after sitting or standing – we have developed a ‘sit-and-stand’ test to monitor heart rate changes.
“Over the years we have also detected many other data paterns related to various anomalies. Stress is very easy to detect, as are autonomic nervous system problems. Breakdowns in the immune system are what cause autoimmune diseases, but many of these breakdowns cannot yet be monitored properly or early enough. Vagus is aiming to change all that.”
The Vagus ECG Smartwatch is priced at £169: a ‘breath-only’ version of the ECG app – a first for the iPhone – is due in November.