Can ECG from smartwatches inform and influence your shopping behavior?

Apple Watch taking an ECG

Smartwatch shipments worldwide have been growing at an astounding pace. Smartwatch makers such as Apple, Fitbit, and Samsung have been adding new and improved features to the watch, including ECG.

It has been four years since Apple first introduced the ECG app in 2018. Now the feature is available in all Apple Watch models starting with the Series 4. Fitbit launched its app more recently in 2020/2021, and the feature is quickly gaining popularity.

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Some researchers have been exploring the non-health aspects of ECG data collected from smartwatches.

A team of researchers in Taiwan has been studying if the ECG data from your smartwatches can help inform and influence your purchasing behavior.smartwatch and shopping behavior

The findings from this precision marketing initiative were recently published in the MDPI/Sensors journal and show that data from ECG and some amount of machine learning and AI-based algorithms can actually influence your purchase behavior.

According to the researchers, 

“The findings of this study can provide a reference to e-commerce platforms in developing Apps. 

When consumers wear smartwatches equipped with the function for taking ECG measurements, the smartwatches could measure the ECG data in the background and transmit the data to the consumers’ smartphones via Bluetooth. 

When consumers browse product websites, the App could obtain real-time EGCs for data pre-processing and model classification. Finally, the model classification results could be uploaded to the backend (cloud).

Advertisements of target products can be displayed precisely to consumers according to the ECG recognition results, thereby eliminating the need for random marketing based on browsing history.”

This is actually a scary thought, to be honest. Not only this has adverse privacy and security ramifications but opens a huge debate around ownership of one’s health data. 

This is one of the reasons why you should pay attention and clearly know the apps with which you are sharing your health data and the importance of these apps to your lifestyle and health.

Apple Watch users can quickly check the privacy of their health data using a few simple steps. Every time you update your Apple Watch with the latest watchOS, you can make it a habit to check the data sharing with third-party apps.

On your Apple Watch, open the Settings app and scroll down and tap on Privacy and Security. Scroll down and make sure you turn on the app Privacy Report here. You will get these periodic privacy reports that can offer you guidance around privacy.

App Privacy report on Apple Watch

The other thing to do is to open the Settings app on your iPhone. Scroll down and locate the Health app, and tap on it. Tap on Data Access and Devices, and you will find a list of apps that gave access to your health data.Apple Health Data Privacy

Tap on any of these apps and it will show you the various data that this app has access to. You may want to make changes here based on your preferences.

We have seen other reports where companies such as Humi have explored integrating smartwatch heart rate into gaming platforms.

When the game finds that your HR is below a certain threshold, it can influence the levels by showing you difficult scenes in order to boost your gaming anxiety and such.

We are just at the beginning innings of the wearables and smartwatch revolution when it comes to health and fitness. It is, therefore, imperative that we know how this data is collected and shared with whom and for what reason.

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Sudz Niel Kar
I am a technologist with years of experience with Apple and wearOS products, have a BS in Computer Science and an MBA specializing in emerging tech, and owned the popular site AppleToolBox. In my day job, I advise Fortune 500 companies with their digital transformation strategies and also consult with numerous digital health startups in an advisory capacity. I'm VERY interested in exploring the digital health and fitness-tech evolution and keeping a close eye on patents, FDA approvals, strategic partnerships, and developments happening in the wearables and digital health sector. When I'm not writing or presenting, I run with my Apple Watch Ultra or Samsung Galaxy Watch and closely monitor my HRV and other recovery metrics.


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