We knew smart wearables and fitness watches will soon be the guiding light, on a daily basis, for a lot of us. That perhaps starts now, with the Apple Watch now detecting, monitoring and admonishing or congratulating you depending on how well you do the simple task of washing your hands. One would assume that you may have been washing your hands for years now, but the thing is, a lot of us don’t do it well enough. With the watchOS 7 update that rolls out later this year, the Apple Watch will get the ability to detect and monitor the time you spend washing your hands, complete with a timer telling you how many seconds of washing remain. Apple is calling this Automatic Hand Washing Detection. This is a great habit to inculcate if you haven’t already, perhaps with the COVID scare a very real thing.
Various studies over time have suggested that we must wash our hands properly for at least 20 seconds to be able to wash away all the germs, virus and bacteria that may cause illness. At the same time, most of us don’t spend those 20 seconds cleaning our hands—it is usually much lesser. Apple says the Watch uses the motion sensors, microphone, and on-device machine learning to automatically detect handwashing motions and sounds. At this point, the Watch then initiates a 20-second countdown timer which you can see on the screen. If you finish washing your hands too soon, you’ll get a pop-up that urges you to keep washing. If you do the hand washing well, you’ll be congratulated for a job well done.
Apple says that with watchOS 7, the Apple Watch can also remind users to wash their hands when they return home. Apple will also integrate this feature in the Health app and sync it across the Watch and your iPhone. The Health app will keep a log of how many times you wash your hands, as well as guidance on hand washing tips and why it is important to spend those 20 seconds with soap and water.
On the privacy front, Apple says that the sounds that are used to detect the handwashing activity, via the microphone on the Apple Watch, is not recorded or saved anywhere. It is part of the on-device process which gets erased once the hand washing activity is completed.
Apple has announced the new watchOS 7 for Apple Watch Series 5, Watch Series 4 and Watch Series 3 and it arrives later this year. There are a bunch of new features incoming, including the shareable and discoverable watch face configurations, sleep tracking, support for new workout types including various popular dance forms, and a new hearing health feature give greater insight into overall well-being. However, the support for all these features will depend on which Apple Watch you have, because a lot of the functionality relies on the hardware and sensors to work, which older Watches may not have. At this time, we know that watchOS 7 will run on Apple Watch Series 5, Apple Watch Series 4 and the Apple Watch Series 3. The older Apple Watch Series 1 and Series 2 will lose support.