The surprising story behind the Apple Watch’s ECG ability

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Apple COO Jeff Williams discusses Apple Watch Series 4 during an event on September 12, 2018, in Cupertino, California, the watch lets users take ECG readings. - New iPhones set to be unveiled Wednesday offer Apple a chance for fresh momentum in a sputtering smartphone market as the California tech giant moves into new products and services to diversify.Apple was expected to introduce three new iPhone models at its media event at its Cupertino campus, notably seeking to strengthen its position in the premium smartphone market a year after launching its $1,000 iPhone X. (Photo by NOAH BERGER / AFP) (Photo credit should read NOAH BERGER/AFP/Getty Images)

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In February 2016, a small start-up company called AliveCor hired Frank Petterson and Simon Prakash, two Googlers with AI expertise, to transform their business of smartphone electrocardiograms (ECG).

The company was struggling. They had developed the first smartphone app capable of single-lead ECG, and, by 2015, they were even able to display the ECG on an Apple Watch. The app had a “wow” factor but otherwise seemed to be of little practical value.

The company faced an existential threat, despite extensive venture capital investment from Khosla Ventures and others.

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