Despite the fact that smartwatches have become a frankly useful health device, thanks to all the monitoring and exercise modes it offers, it seems that they could be harmful to health.
A study from the University of Utah that echoes Evening Standard has detected that the use of these devices could cause failure of pacemakers or other heart implants.
The devices they mention in the investigation are the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 and the FitBit Aria 2 smart scale.
The reason for the failure? Simple: these gadgets use a small electrical signal that passes through the body to return data such as body fat or body composition. Although the signal is very weak, the study suggests that they can cause pacemakers or CIED devices to not work properly.
“These devices interfere with the proper functioning of the CIEDs we tested. These results rrequire future clinical studies to evaluate the translation of our findings to patients who use CIED and use these portable devices”, explains the co-author of the study Sánchez Terrones.
This is because the electrical signal from the hardware it can be misinterpreted as a signal from the heart.
“If the pacemaker is confused by the interference, it might stop working for as long as you are confused. If that interference is for a long time, the patient could pass out or worse,” explains associate professor of medicine Benjamin Steinberg.
The University of Utah’s own statement on the study also suggests that “a portable device with bioimpedance could fool the defibrillator [un cardioversor implantable] to give the patient an unnecessary electric shock, which can be painful.
“No one has analyzed whether this is a real concern or not,” argues Sánchez Terrones.
“You should not use the Body+ if you use a pacemaker or other internal medical device,” reads the FAQ section of the Withings website, on the subject of its Body+ smart scale.
“People who wear pacemakers should not use body composition measurements, including fat mass, muscle mass, bone mass, and hydration. Users with any other internal medical devices should not use these Body+ Scale features without consulting a a medical professional,” they continue.
On Samsung devices, user has to go through multiple warning screens before performing such a scan.
The study also reveals that the use of smart scales is less likely to be problematic than smartwatches.