Measuring Arterial Oxygen Saturation Using Wearable Devices Under Varying Conditions

Eleanor Hearn, Jack Byford, Christopher Wolfe, Cheryl Agyei, Peter Hodkinson, Ross Pollock, Thomas Smith*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
16 Downloads (Pure)


INTRODUCTION: Recently developed wearable monitoring devices can provide arterial oxygen saturation (Spo2) measurements, offering potential for use in aerospace operations. Pilots and passengers are already using these technologies, but their performance has not yet been established under conditions experienced in the flight environment such as environmental hypoxia and concurrent body motion. 

METHODS: An initial evaluation was conducted in 10 healthy subjects who were studied in a normobaric chamber during normoxia and at a simulated altitude of 15,000 ft (4572 m; 11.8% oxygen). Spo2 was measured simultaneously using a standard pulse oximeter and four wearable devices: Apple Watch Series 6; Garmin Fēnix 6 watch; Cosinusso Two in-ear sensor; and Oxitone 1000M wrist-worn pulse oximeter. Measurements were made while stationary at rest, during very slight body motion (induced by very low intensity cycling at 30 W on an ergometer), and during moderate body motion (induced by moderate intensity cycling at 150 W). 

RESULTS: Missed readings, defined as failure to record an Spo2 value within 1 min, occurred commonly with all wearables. Even with only very slight body motion, most devices missed most readings (range of 12–82% missed readings) and the rate was higher with greater body motion (range 18–92%). One device tended to under-report Spo2, while the other devices tended to over-report Spo2. Performance decreased across the devices when oxygenation was reduced. 

DISCUSSION: In this preliminary evaluation, the wearable devices studied did not perform to the same standard as a traditional pulse oximeter. These limitations may restrict their utility in flight and require further investigation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)42-47
Number of pages6
JournalAerospace medicine and human performance
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2023


  • altitude
  • aviation
  • hypoxemia
  • pilot
  • pulse oximeter
  • spaceflight

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