Apple’s iWatch: Think healthcare, not health clubs

“I was reading up on wireless pulse oximetry over the weekend when it occurred to me that we might be looking at Apple’s so-called iWatch project from the wrong angle,” Philip Elmer-DeWitt writes for Fortune.

“Because CEO Tim Cook is a health nut who hits the treadmill every morning, wears a Nike Fuel Band and sits on Nike’s (NKE) board of directors, everybody seems to assume that Apple’s target demographic for this thing — whatever it is — would be people like Cook: Tech enthusiasts who don’t like to miss text messages and who work out seriously enough to care about monitoring their heart rate,” P.E.D. reports. “But what if that’s a secondary target? What if the more important market — the one that’s ripe for disruption and big enough to warrant Apple’s attention — is people for whom things like pulse oximetry are a matter of life and death? People whose health costs are on a trajectory to bankrupt the U.S.?”

“According to 9to5Mac‘s Mark Gurman — the current leader of iWatch pack journalism — the next version of iOS will be able to read sensors for blood pressure, hydration, heart rate and steps,” P.E.D. reports. “‘iWatch is said to be able to monitor several other pieces of health and fitness data,’ he added, but couldn’t be more specific. As Tim Cook put it at the last AllThingsD: ‘The whole sensor field is going to explode.'”

Read more in the full article here.

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  1. I’d definitely buy this: the target areas mentioned are exactly the parameters that concern me. If it’s $400 or less then I would buy it. Especially if it also contained the necessary components to facilitate wireless at-the-register credit purchases.

  2. If true, then it really would be something. Health monitoring can be a significant market for Apple. The best part is that part or all of the cost will probably be covered by insurance for those with high blood pressure and other ailments that the sensors can monitor.

    Also, knowning Apple, these FUGLY smart watches that have appeared and shown in CES will most likely look like a dinosaur next to Ive’s special!

    My guess is that the so called iwatch is nothing more than a data sensor transiver and all the calculation and data interpretation is done on iPhone/iPad/Mac via BT. Think of it like a satellite with a display screen.

    Just look around you. Americans are significantly obese which amost always leads to high blood pressure and type2 diabetes. If the iwatch can monitor pressure and blood sugar level and warn people as appropriate – that would be something, right?

    1. Hate to stereotype but I honestly don’t think the obese McDonald going crowd are Apple’s demographic.. Isn’t Apple’s largest demographic more the college educated, professional, fitness minded individual?

    2. Think of it as a medical TriCorder in starTrek NG. I think this is the type of tool people need to better take care of themselves and give a finger to the insurance fee motivated with their Pharma partners Heath Care so called industries.

      Apple is the only company big enough to give them the finger and allow the caring nurses and doctors to provide a caring service they wish to do.

  3. Clearly the disrupter feature ( I was going to say ‘Killer App’ but perhaps thats not appropriate) is going to be the use of your iPhone to send the data to your Doctors Surgery that uses automatic monitoring to give you a call if it goes outside parameters set.
    The posibilities are endless. A true Apple like rework of under whelming current technologies

  4. The killer App for a watch is “Telling Time” just like the killer app for a phone is making calls. This being said, useful features that are well designed and easy to use will differentiate the toys and gadgets from the adult devices.

    There are many hurdles in health informatics. The software industry in that domain is just coming out of the stone age. Privacy sensitivities are much higher than most other industries (except maybe banking). And that is just to name a few.

    I trust that Apple can probably work with or around the constraints. The only thing that doesn’t jive with Apple’s usual target markets is that, although a Healthcare focused iWatch could be purchased by consumers, the ecosystem has to include healthcare organisations and that is a hairy beast with myriads of heads.

    Unless Apple creates and hosts a service similar to Health Vault (Microsoft’s ill conceived initiative), and creates a critical mass of users, I don’t see the health care industry paying any attention to he iWatch.

    1. I was with you at the beginning of this post, but “I don’t see the health care industry paying any attention to he iWatch” lost me completely.

      With all of the health care people they have brought onboard already to prep this thing, I’m positive it will draw more than just the attention of the industry. It will draw rave reviews and be a reason for those other pads that exist in doctors offices to be replaced by iPads all around. When my diabetic wife can walk in and upload her blood sugar readings for the last 3 months with a few simple verification taps, it will be good.

      When it tells her she’s running low and needs a snack, I’ll buy two to make sure she has a spare all the time! It just might keep her out of the ER, which has happened every spring for the last 5 years now. To me, that pays for itself in one year – literally. I don’t even care if insurance might someday cover it – I can’t wait! I’ll be buying on release day, which I never do. I always wait for the 1.1 version of anything, but not this. Can I have a 0.93 beta version?!

    2. That depends on what you mean by watch.

      You need to think differently about the word ‘watch’.

      If you think of ‘watching’ – ie. observing or as a sentinel,
      then iWatch might be a device that monitors your vital stats – a bit like a ‘Nest’ for humans. No one has such a device on the market and most probably think they dont need one ( a bit like the iPad seems until you own one).

      I’m just expecting to see the Griffin blood/ sugar tester soon after its release !

  5. The time function is the killer app for whom exactly ? Most of us have a smartphone and those that own one probably also have a smart looking watch already. As others have found already the production of an alternative timepiece is hardly going to set the world on fire and the current range of designs and styles out there for men and women means that a wrist borne device that does not have a better primary function than merely telling the time is going to be consigend to the tech ‘freak’ market. Apple need a device that is so new that millions want to wear a whole new wrist item – if it tells the time when in sleep mode – well that’s a bonus – but a trivial task that just means you can leave the Rollex in the drawer.

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