Fitbit might be building the stress-busting smartwatch of my dreams

Anxious young woman wearing smartwatch
(Image credit: HBRH / Shutterstock)

Fitbit may be working on a new fitness tracker that will passively monitor your stress levels while you go about your day, and warn you if your anxiety peaks. A newly published patent I've spotted explains how the company could use electrodermal activity (EDA) sensors to identify moments when the pressure is really starting to bite, and you might need a helping hand to calm down.

The Fitbit Sense and Fitbit Charge 5 both feature EDA sensors, which measure changes in the conductivity of your skin (known as EDA responses). The more adrenal activity there is, the more you sweat, and the more EDA responses will be recorded.

It's a novel approach to tracking stress, which most other smartwatches and fitness trackers measure by tracking changes in heart rate variability. It's not perfect, though – right now, you have to activate the EDA app manually, and sit perfectly still for a minute while your Fitbit device completes its scan.

You can use this time to practice mindfulness or meditation, and hopefully see your EDA responses lower as a result, but the onus is on you to start the process, and if you're having a hectic day, you might not feel able to justify the time.

That's where the system described in the new patent comes in. Fitbit describes how the EDA sensors could be used to detect "a sympathetic nervous system response". Each of these responses would be logged, and if the number of responses registered during a set period of time exceeds a certain level, the watch could display a message on the screen.

I sometimes don't realize I'm feeling stressed until I start to get a headache, so a system that would give me advance warning could be a game-changer.

Feeling the pressure

There's no way of knowing when (or if) Fitbit will incorporate this type of real-time EDA monitoring into its devices, but I'm hopeful that it'll be sooner rather than later. Fitbit recently received the go-ahead for passive ECG monitoring, which will allow its watches and fitness trackers to check for signs of an irregular heartbeat without you taking time out to perform a check manually, and passive EDA stress monitoring seems like a natural fit alongside that.

I'm not expecting this type of passive tracking to come to any existing devices, though, simply because the Fitbit Sense and Charge 5 have their sensors on the side of their cases, so they're not in continuous contact with your skin.

However, details of three new devices were recently discovered in the install files for the official Fitbit Android app, suggesting that a new Fitbit Sense 2 may be arriving on our wrists soon. I'm keeping an ear to the ground for news and rumors, and will let you know more as soon as I can.

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of TechRadar's sister site Advnture. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better)