We’ve written about Valencell many times. The Raleigh, North Carolina-based company has a strong presence in biometric sensor development. To cite just a few instances, in 2016 we wrote about Valencell licensing hearable sensor patents to Samsung. We covered a collaboration on sensors and analytics between Valencell and Firstbeat in 2017. When Valencell and Sonion partnered in developing biometric ear modules in 2018, we wrote about that as well.

Now Valencell was back in the news in early January at CES 2020 when the company announced what it describes as the “world’s first calibration-free blood pressure sensor system for hearables and wearables.” Valencell’s technology doesn’t require use cuffs for calibration. Entirely sensor-based, the blood pressure sensing development employs photoplethysmography (PPG) and inertial sensors.

In testing with an earbud reference design, Valencell’s sensor system recognized hypertension with 89% accuracy in testing thousands of patients and tens of thousands of datasets. This level of accuracy similar to the accuracy of conventional blood pressure cuffs and, equally impressive, the sensors don’t require calibration with a BP cuff. We had the opportunity to try one of the prototype units at Valencell’s exhibit at CES 2020. It is far more comfortable than a traditional pressure cuff, and the fact that it can provide continuous readings could change how we monitor blood pressure in the future.

Valencell and Sonion developed the landmark blood pressure sensor system together. The two companies continue to work on optimizing the technology for hearing aids, hearing health devices, and additional types of wearable devices including those worn on the finger and wrist. Incorporating cuff-quality blood pressure accuracy in an earbud is a very big deal, but similar success with smart rings and smartwatches could enable and enlist tens or hundreds of millions of devices worldwide in the efforts to detect hypertension and get early treatment for patients with high blood pressure.