Challenger to Watch: AliveCor

For saving lives

Has there been a more hyped yet more disappointing tech category of the last few years than fitness trackers? Some data even suggests they may make us less fit!

Personally, I persist with my Fitbit, as I find the heart rate monitor useful for assessing exercise time spent in the orange zone (for more on heart rate science see runner up challenger to watch Orange Theory).

And according to Wired, the tracker people are slowly figuring out how to make usage as addictive as social media. Imagine if we became as obsessive about health as we are about Instagram.

With this coming of age of the tracker in mind, we’re calling out AliveCor as a challenger to watch in 2018. The Kardia band is an accessory that can literally save your life. Take that, cute cat pictures.

KardiaBand from AliveCor.

KardiaBand from AliveCor.

The Kardia band is an EKG device for the Apple Watch. Using sensors and sophisticated AI it checks your heart beat every 5 seconds and looks for abnormal patterns that might predict a heart attack. If it finds them, it asks you there and then to take an EKG using sensors built into the strap itself.

Most people at risk of heart attack might go a year between EKGs when the ideal situation is to have them frequently and at the time of an abnormal pattern.

This rich and more immediate data makes the Kardia band a game-changing diagnostic tool, challenging the way we monitor heart health by taking data collection out of the hospital for the first time.

At just $199 for the band and a $99/year subscription, it’s remarkable value. And with heart attacks still being the biggest killer worldwide, more so than all cancers combined, the market for this tech is enormous.

If AliveCor is to win, it’ll need to be as ambitious, clever, and persistent in its approach to marketing the device, as it was in seeking FDA approval.

It took $40 million (and very patient investors) to get certification by the FDA in the US, making the data legal to use by doctors. Such an investment effectively builds a moat around AliveCor for some time, unless of course, Apple choses to spend some of its repatriated tax billions to develop its own (as is rumored).

If AliveCor is to win, it'll need to be as ambitious, clever, and persistent in its approach to marketing the device, as it was in seeking FDA approval. And that’s what makes it a challenger to watch this year.

Perhaps AliveCor thinks it has done the hard yards building a device capable of satisfying Washington DC regulators, but widespread adoption will be just as hard, especially with frenemy Apple going to school on its methods.

I’ve never wanted an Apple Watch before — an expensive bauble with little functionality that can’t be found on the phone that’s in the hand below the wrist. But now, as a man of a certain age with a family history of heart disease…? Can I expense it?