new Garmin Elevate 5 optical HRM Sensor
Garmin’s ELEVATE-branded optical heart rate monitor has gradually improved its capabilities through various iterations in recent years.
We have witnessed the support for optical HR (oHR) during swimming, the inclusion of resting HRV calculations, the implementation of 24×7 per-second recording, and the addition of blood oxygen (SpO2) monitoring.
At first glance, one might assume that the technology has reached its limits. It could certainly become slightly more accurate or save a bit more energy, and perhaps one day we could even obtain HRV data during exercise. But is that all there is to it?
Well, no. These wrist-based optical sensors are set to enhance their capabilities in the years to come. While Garmin may never be at the forefront of the latest groundbreaking advancements in wrist sensor technology, it will remain competitive.
In fact, we are on the brink of witnessing a wide array of new metrics being measured from the wrist and incorporated into a single LED (or laser) sensing unit, such as lactate, blood pressure, electrolytes, creatinine, hydration, blood glucose, and more. However, we are tantalizingly close to this point, but the market has not quite caught up, and Garmin certainly hasn’t either. In fact, Garmin is still to some extent playing catch-up, and that is precisely what ELEVATE GEN 5 embodies, which is scheduled for release within a month… a catch-up effort. Let’s go though what we know
image via @winfuture
New Hardware – new Elevate
The new ELEVATE Gen 5 model seems very slightly thicker than the previous version and so will sit slightly deeper into your skin than before. It also appears to have a larger diameter as shown in this comparison.
Most strikingly however it has 6x green LEDs, 4 receptors, and 2 orange LEDs. But look closer and you will also see four silver areas next to each of the 4 sides of the square of the main LED module. We’ll come back to all these bits shortly.
Note also that the Start/Stop button looks the same as the previous version. However, if you look at competitors smartwatches you will find that this kind of button construction supports ECG/EKG.
Elevate 5.0 has Skin Temperature Measurement
Skin temperature is a health and sleep metric, and can for example aid the detection of sleep stages, ovulation cycles and illness. So don’t expect to be wowed by knowing your skin temperature but DO expect to see improvements to the accuracy of Garmin health and wellness insights.
Skin temperature serves different purposes than core temperature, with the latter being more relevant to athletes during a performance. Athletes seek assistance in acclimating to higher-temperature environments and may desire insights into core temperature to prevent overheating, dehydration, and suboptimal performance. However, I am sceptical that such insights will be available from the beginning with Elevate 5.
Skin temperature sensors can be employed alongside clever algorithms to determine core body temperatures. These algorithms can improve their accuracy by incorporating HR data from a chest strap. In fact, they can be scientifically validated to measure core body temperature with a precision of within 0.1/0.2 Celsius, like GreenTEG Core.
It’s worth noting that the silver area, which is mentioned earlier, does not necessarily need to be made of metal in order to possess temperature measurement capabilities.
Will Elevate 5 deliver More Accuracy?
A: Yes, probably
Well, the truth will be in the testing and I suspect Garmin will claim it’s more accurate.
Previously, hairy skin, darker skin and motion artefacts have caused Garmin sensors accuracy issues, although they are sometimes hard to pin down as they are specific to you and how you exercise.
More LEDs should be able to create more data points which can then be cross-validated to eliminate the bad ones and improve accuracy. At least that’s the theory, the reality will come down to how well Garmin implements its algorithms and it’s not always had the best record in that department.
One interesting and very plausible from the suggestions below is that Garmin will fire up 2 or 4 of the 6 green LEDs during workouts for maximum accuracy but only rely on 2 LEDs for the 24×7 HR monitoring. I like that idea but has Garmin already considered it?
Will Elevate 5 need more power?
a: No, probably not.
Despite more LEDs implying a great power consumption, there will be efficiencies elsewhere that will almost certainly reduce the overall energy requirements. For example, some components within the watch can be merged into one and energy savings are achieved that way.
Will Elevate 5 be an ECG?
A: Yes, it’s been confirmed (via @J)
Garmin has already released an ECG on a Venu 2 Plus earlier this year, following years of research and approval/patent processes. I’m now certain that the new Elevate sensor will support ECG, although perhaps not at launch.
Will Elevate 5 support Afib?
a: Yes, Garmin’s ECG app supports the detection of atrial fibrillation (AFib) or normal sinus rhythm
Will Elevate 5 support SpO2
A: Yes, v4 already does.
Is Elevate 5 also a GSR?
A: Probably not. But this would be the most interesting addition to a Garmin watch.
Galvanic Skin Response (GSR) sensors, also known as Electrodermal Activity (EDA) sensors, made their debut in Consumer Wearables in 2014. They are devices used to measure the electrical conductivity of the skin. GSR sensors are commonly utilized in fields like psychology and neuroscience to evaluate an individual’s physiological response to various stimuli. They operate based on the principle that the skin’s electrical conductivity alters when a person experiences emotional or physiological changes. These changes primarily stem from the activity of sweat glands, which are regulated by the autonomic nervous system. While GSR sensors do not directly measure HRV/ANS changes, such data could serve as input for recovery/readiness algorithms, enhancing their accuracy.
Will Garmin try a new sensor technology (GSR) on a new sensor package on its most important watches? A: Garmin is quite a conservative company, so probably not.
Garmin’s latest ELEVATE Gen 5 optical heart rate monitor (oHRM) sensor represents another step for the company’s wrist sensor technology. With improvements such as ECG & skin temperature measurement, the Gen 5 sensor should offer enhanced accuracy and valuable insights for users. Supported by clever algorithms and potential integration with HR data from a chest strap, this oHRM sensor demonstrates Garmin’s commitment to staying competitive and delivering comprehensive health information. While supporting features like ECG, the Gen 5 sensor may not include Galvanic Skin Response (GSR) capabilities. Nonetheless, it sets the stage for future advancements in wrist-based metrics and solidifies Garmin’s position as a sports and wellness leader.
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