The latest version of MocaCare's heart health tracking device, the MocaHeart, was among a plethora of mobile health wearable devices on display at CES 2016 in January.
However, what's unusual about the MocaHeart compared to the others is that it uses a proprietary index based on blood velocity and correlated to blood pressure to give users simplified heart health metrics.
Most medically certified, traditional blood pressure monitors are cuff-oriented and unwieldy. They're also not beautifully designed, making wearers self-conscious of looking "ill," and they're costly.
Few wearables that haven't been certified by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) give users blood pressure data at all, and none compete with MocaHeart's price of $149.
While its non-certified status means that the data cannot be used clinically to diagnose hypertension or other heart conditions, its data can be used by individuals to chart daily over-time trends that would suggest lifestyle changes or a reason to schedule an appointment with the doctor.
MocaCare's multi-discipline team comprised of experts from Stanford, the University of California at San Francisco and California College of the Arts took two years to develop the small 7 millimeter device that also tracks heart rate and blood oxygen levels.
It's a sleek device that looks somewhat like an early Apple Nano, weighs less than 1 ounce and comes in a variety of colors. It scans data gleaned when the user depresses it with their thumb, and then combines the data with proprietary algorithms to compile and deliver simplified information to the user.
Naama Stauber, co-founder of MocaCare, told eWEEK how the Moca Index (MI), which assigns simplified values of 1 to 5 (Low, Ideal, Raised, High or Very High) to blood pressure readings, works. "Generally, the faster that blood travels through blood vessels, the more pressure the heart is under.
Thus, higher blood velocity, meaning higher blood pressure, leads to a higher MI. Because systolic and diastolic blood pressure figures can be hard for everyday users to understand and remember, the MI is an easy way to understand the current state of your cardiovascular health."
Blood pressure is normally written as a ratio XXX/XX. Systolic pressure, the top number and the higher of the two numbers, measures pressure in the arteries when the heart muscle contracts and creates the audible heart beat. Diastolic pressure is the lower number and represents the pressure between heart beats.
Dr. Daniel Hong, a former visiting assistant professor of neurosurgery at Stanford and also a MocaCare co-founder, created the MI based on multiple extensive research studies by institutions, including Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford, that have consistently shown a correlation between the blood velocity and blood pressure. Hong designed its values scale to coincide with the American Heart Association's guidelines for hypertension.
In addition to adding a choice of device colors for users, MocaCare has also introduced a couple of accessories to make it easier for users to incorporate the device into their lives. A durable smartphone case, priced at $19, and currently available for iPhone 6 models, houses the MocaHeart monitor to provide on-the go heart readings.
A new leather keychain, priced at $29, provides a functional, cool-looking, case for those users who don't use an iPhone or those who just prefer not to carry their phones with them all the time.
MocaHeart's iOS and Android mobile applications serve up visual graphs of daily, weekly, monthly or annual trends. You can use the in-app messaging feature to share health status updates with others and set reminders to take daily readings.
MocaHeart also supports Apple's iOS 8 Healthkit so those users can get up to speed quickly with the device. Its battery takes 40 to 60 minutes to charge, and holds a charge for about three days when used three to five times daily.
MocaCare, founded in 2013, is a relatively young company. MocaHeart got its start as a Kickstarter online crowd-funding project that measures success by how well its projects do, not by the size of its profits.
FDA clearance is a crucial part of the product's maturation process, but the process can take many months due to the detailed review process, according to Stauber.
"The FDA certification is important because it makes sure that whatever you're promising the user is correct and clinically relevant. MocaCare does plan to pursue FDA clearance in the future so that the data collected from MocaHeart can be used for clinical purposes," said Stauber.
Editor's Note: This story was updated to correct the former role of MocaCare founder Daniel Hong at Stanford University.
Editor's Note: This story was updated to reflect that the MocaHeart health tracking device tracks certain heart health metrics. It does not specifically measure blood pressure.