Apple has employed a team to create a custom processor that more accurately tracks the health data received from sensors within their devices. Apple has been interested in the healthcare market for quite some time and even incorporated health tacking into their Apple Watch device. The Apple Watch contains sensing capabilities for detecting the user’s heart rate, steps taken, distance traveled, and calories burned.
Now Apple is preparing to launch a network of its own health-monitoring processors. Rumors based on a recent job listing are making people question what Apple is striving to create. Over the last few years, the addition of health sensors into their watches has become a large part of Apple’s software. All styles and models of the Apple Watch come with a built-in optical heart-rate sensor as well as a suite of fitness tracking tools.
Another step toward the collaboration of technology and health was the iPhone’s Health app which tracks a user’s distance covered walking, running, or jogging, as well as how many flights of stairs climbed for the day. In 2017, Apple continued furthered its healthcare collaboration by adding Beddit, a successful sleep-tracking app.
On July 10th, 2018 a job posting from Apple’s Health Sensing hardware team said, “We are looking for sensor ASIC architects to help develop ASICs for new sensors and sensing systems for future Apple products. We have openings for analog as well as digital ASIC architects.”
As a result of the job posting, many are wondering what will come next from Apple? While it isn’t clear what the sensors would measure, it is noted that it appears to be information from the body. The job posting also implied that the team was striving to continue working with optical sensors similar to the ones used in the Apple Watch.
A post on August 1 said that the team was simply looking for another engineer who can “help develop health, wellness, and fitness sensors.” This is a step forward for Apple as for years they have relied on smaller companies to provide additional components. For example, Broadcom provided a custom-sensing, application-specific integrated circuit for the most recent version of the Apple Watch.
The specialized chips Apple is hoping to launch will be able to analyze information from the sensors for statistics such as depth and distance. While the products’ primary chips will work more efficiently, Apple wants to work with a new variety of sensors, so their devices can perform better and possess an upgraded battery life.
While Apple currently focuses on exercise, cardiac health, and sleep quality through Beddit, CNBC has also reported the company will be adding non-invasive blood-sugar monitoring. This will be a major breakthrough for those battling with diabetes if it comes to fruition. The heart monitoring features of the Apple Watch will also be upgraded and will allow the sensors to detect signs of diseases such as atrial fibrillation.
“I could see one day in the future an optical sensing technology could be used to non-invasively measure glucose, and what a benefit in comparison to pin-sticking technologies that we have today that require a physical amount of blood to be measured,” said Anil Sethi, a former director in Apple’s health records group.
Apple has had the longest track record in the production of chips across multiple product lines. However, there will soon be competition as Alphabet’s Google has begun pursuing the creation of their own custom chips, as well as Amazon and Facebook who have shown interest in chip customization as well.