Why the Apple Watch can be the next big thing
The smartwatch market is tough, but the Apple Watch has a shot at cracking it.
The smartwatch market is a tough one. Pebble, a smartwatch pioneer, sold its key assets to Fitbit and shut down last year. Earlier this year, Motorola confirmed that it will not be making any more smartwatches.
But I remain bullish about the Apple Watch’s future. The main reason for being optimistic is the Watch’s potential to positively affect health. More than two years ago, I wrote that what fitness trackers need to succeed are two things, big data and the ability to understand big data:
“Imagine the heart rate sensor on the new Apple Watch. What if the sensor could not only monitor your heart rate over time, but also detect unusual heart palpitations and log them against a database of heart rates? What if it could then send you a message, warning you that people with similar heart rate patterns have a higher chance of heart problems and you should get it checked out?”
Well, you don’t have to imagine any longer. A recent study found that the Apple Watch is able to detect abnormal heart rates, or atrial fibrillation, with an accuracy of up to 97 percent.
The study was conducted by the University of California and the team behind the Cardiogram app, which tracks heart rate using the Watch. Cardiogram is now refining its algorithms, and the company says that soon it’ll be able to notify Watch owners if they have abnormal heart rates.
Besides heart health, rumors are that Apple has been working for years to develop sensors that can monitor blood sugar levels. Right now, the only way to properly measure blood sugar levels is by using a blood sample, or a device that penetrates the skin. If Apple can invent a non-invasive glucose monitor on the Watch — and that’s a very big if — it would be revolutionary.
That’s because a glucose monitor would not just benefit diabetics, it would also benefit everyone else. Before people develop type 2 diabetes, they have ‘prediabetes,’ which means that their blood sugar levels are higher than normal. However, there are usually no symptoms, you won’t know you’re pre-diabetic unless you go for a blood test. People who are pre-diabetic can prevent the onset of diabetes, but the first step is to know that they’re prediabetic. If Apple can crack this, then it shifts the Watch from a nice-to-have gadget to a must-have for health. Apple is also heading in the right direction with ResearchKit, which helps medical institutions conduct medical research studies, turning the iPhone into a tool for health and big data. Tim Cook has also shown a willingness to protect Apple’s users’ privacy, which is something you want for a company that you’d entrust your health data to. The wearables market is a tough one, but I think Apple, if anyone else, has a shot of making the Watch the next big thing.