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.

HWM (Malaysia) - - THINK - By Alvin Soon

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.

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