Credit: Nowatch
With the pandemic's globally reaching impact, I know I am not alone in my desire to increase awareness of my physical and mental health all whilst being more present
– Hylke Muntinga, co-founder of Nowatch

Nowatch, a new contender in the expanding biometric fitness tracker market has developed a wearable device, in partnership with Philips, which measures cortisol levels and alerts users about their stress load up to 60 minutes in advance.

Owners can't tell the time on these watches – the watch “face” is an interchangeable gemstone – but they can measure metrics such as temperature, breath rate, heart rate, movement, blood oxygen and sleep, in addition to stress – with the goal being “complete mind and body wellbeing”.

The device is screenless and designed to look like a piece of jewellery – the functionality and data-based guidance is delivered to the user through an app. According to the team, when stress occurs the wearable vibrates gently giving the signal that action must be taken to reduce the rising stress load.

Coining the term “awareable” to describe Nowatch, founders Hylke Muntinga and Timothée Manschot have been scaling up research and development since raising US$8.7m in Series A funding last month, led by angel investor Chris Hall. Flow Ventures also participated.

Muntinga became motivated to create the product after encountering health problems and needing to keep his stress levels down. According to the American Institute of Stress, stress can degrade your immune system, damage your body's ability to fight infection, rewire the brain and impact gut health.

“Necessity is often the mother of invention and was the impetus behind the creation of this new category,” said Muntinga. “Between learning in 2019 that I have a rare genetic condition that will cost me my eyesight and experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic the next year, my personal priorities have shifted from planning and stress to a more mindful and present now. With the pandemic's globally reaching impact, I know I'm not alone in this desire to increase awareness of my physical and mental health all while being more present.”

The cortisol-detecting technology has been developed by Philips. It employs biosensing (a devices used to detect a substance) through electrodermal activity (EDA). This process measures changes in conductivity produced in the skin by the sweat glands.

Sweating is controlled by the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for activating a person’s “fight or flight” response. When the body experiences stress, the adrenal glands release cortisol into the bloodstream.

Cortisol helps regulate sleep cycles, blood pressure and blood sugar levels, but those with higher levels risk developing mental and physical health problems.

"In the same way cloud technology revolutionised the software industry, I'm confident 'awareables' and predictive technology will reinvent the way we look at health, wellness and mindfulness," said Hall. “In partnering with Philips, Nowatch's unique ability to help users understand and navigate their cortisol levels is set to redefine what we look for when shopping for smart devices – taking the guesswork out of our health."

Nowatch can be ordered online with costs starting from around £300, plus a membership fee. Users choose from a variety of magnetic “watch” faces, fashioned from coloured gemstones and different strap colours made from leather or recycled ocean plastic. Those signing up now should receive the tracker by autumn 2022.