By Jim Karpen on Tue, 02/04/2014
Some very interesting stories were published in recent days that give insights into a new direction for Apple. As you know, the iPhone 5s and the new iPads have the M7 motion tracking chip. It uses the built-in accelerometer, gyroscope, and compass sensors to track keep a record of all your motions, a feature that is being integrated into a range of apps, including fitness. Apple now seems intent on expanding on this and making health and fitness a major new direction. According to a report on 9To5Mac, this monitoring will be a key feature of iOS 8. The report says iOS 8 will include a new app code named "Healthbook," which will offer the ability to monitor blood pressure, hydration levels, heart rate, and blood-related data points such as glucose levels. You will even be able to enter in information about your medications, if any, so that you can be reminded to take them.
What really makes this interesting is a New York Times report last Friday that a number of Apple executives met with the FDA in December to discuss mobile medical applications. These were senior people, suggesting that it was an especially important meeting. Included were Jeff Williams, senior vice president of operations at Apple, and Bud Tribble, vice president of software technology. The FDA officials included Bakul Patel, who drafted the FDA's mobile medical app guidelines. This indicates that Apple is serious about this new direction.
The FDA meeting and the new app also strongly suggest that Apple will indeed be coming out with an iWatch and that it will have fitness and health monitoring as a main focus. According to the report on 9To5Mac, the Healthbook app might function to read the data that the iWatch collects. The New York Times article says that Bob Mansfield, Apple's senior vice president for technologies, has been very involved with the health monitoring aspects of Apple's smartwatch project. More evidence is that Apple has been hiring people with expertise in medical sensors.
This is a very interesting direction for Apple to be taking. While the market for smartwatches has been mixed, the market for wearable fitness sensors is been expanding. If Apple comes to the market with a really cool smartwatch that also has extensive health monitoring capabilities, this could be a real winner. And it's certainly in keeping with recent trends toward people taking a more active role in their health.