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Your next Garmin watch could detect drowsiness and stop you nodding off

Hiker sleeping outdoors
(Image credit: Getty)

Garmin has registered a patent for technology that would allow your watch to detect drowsiness, and warn you in advance if you're at risk of nodding off. Garmin makes some of the best GPS watches and navigation devices for hiking and camping, but this tech would be particularly useful while you're driving to and from camp (particularly if you've had a few restless nights under canvas).

Now that the Garmin Forerunner 955 and 255 have finally launched, it seems like a good time to browse through the company's patents to see what might be in store for future devices. It submitted a summary of its proposed drowsiness detection technology (opens in new tab) to the US Parents and Trademarks Office in 2019, but it's not appeared in any commercially available device – yet.

The system would use a device like a smartwatch or fitness tracker, which is able to detect changes in your heart rate over time. It would use your heart rate variability to determine how alert or drowsy you are, and could even deliver a vibration or audio alert if the device detects that you're driving.

Wakey wakey

It might sound unusual, but it would actually make a lot of sense, particularly for a future version of the Garmin Instinct 2 Dezl (opens in new tab) – a special edition of the second-gen sports watch specially designed with truck drivers in mind, which can connect to a truck GPS system and display health stats on its display.

The Instinct 2 Dezl also encourages drivers to take regular breaks and leads drivers through simple exercise routines to help them stay in shape on the road. A warning that it's time to take a break for a nap would be a natural addition. It could also be incorporated into one of Garmin's specialized watches built with pilots in mind, like the recently released D2 Mach 1 (opens in new tab).

Professional drivers and pilots aren't the only ones who could benefit from drowsiness detection, though, and the patent application describes how drowsiness detection could work as part of Garmin's existing Body Battery technology – which uses your activity, heart rate, and sleep data to determine how much energy you have for the day ahead.

Garmin suggests that using data from the system, you might "make various decisions about physical activities. For example, the user may decide to sleep, drink coffee, or do a more intense workout."

Your watch could even provide suggestions to help you plan your trip and drive more safely. "Examples of personalized driving recommendations may include certain travel days, certain travel weather conditions, certain travel times of day, previous activities, previous sleep durations, travel durations, and other considerations.

"For example, if the driver indicates that a certain trip is upcoming, the personalized driving recommendations may recommend leaving after a certain time of morning, getting a certain amount of sleep the night before, taking certain planned breaks along the route, avoiding certain road types after a certain time of day, or other recommendations."

Of course, there's no guarantee that this drowsiness detection tech will make its way into the next generation of GPS watches, but it would be a welcome addition to help us all stay safer on long drives into the backcountry.

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 13 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better).