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Will Your Smartwatch Save Your Life?

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By Peter Clarke, JD on March 15, 2016 6:57 AM

FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the Internet.

The love affair with smart-phones has led to further rapture with smart-watches. Right now, we can act like Dick Tracy, with the world on our wrists within these tiny smart-watch gadgets. But these smart-watches might not all be about work, communications, and fun and games. Why? Because there is the potential that smart-watches might evolve soon to have the capability of saving lives.

We know that smart-watches presently have health sensors that can monitor steps taken, flights climbed, and heart-beat rates for exercise and physical fitness purposes. And Apple, ever on the cutting-edge, apparently believes that it can go further to use such monitoring capabilities to facilitate calls for help during health emergencies.

As recently reported by Time, a new Apple patent application, unearthed by Apple Insider, describes a potential feature that would have smart-watches call for help if the devices pick up monitoring information that suggests that users are having medical emergencies. For example, an Apple Watch might detect that a wearer's heartbeat is tremendously high or low, and in such event, it could push a signal that would call for medical assistance.

The Apple Watch owner in advance would set up a list of pre-established contacts who would be contacted in an emergency -- perhaps 911, the owner's doctor, and the owner's spouse. Indeed, there would be two levels of "care" lists -- one for personal contacts like family and friends, and another for 911 and emergency services.

You might already think that your smart-watch is one of your best friends. But if your device eventually saves your life, BFF status likely would be cemented forever between you and your smart-watch.

Stay tuned and let's see if Apple is awarded a patent for this asserted invention and whether Apple later rolls out this potentially life-saving feature on its smart-watches in the future.

Eric Sinrod (@EricSinrod on Twitter) is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris LLP, where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology and intellectual property disputes. You can read his professional biography here. To receive a weekly email link to Mr. Sinrod's columns, please email him at ejsinrod@duanemorris.com with Subscribe in the Subject line. This column is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author's law firm or its individual partners.

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