The next plat­form war

How Ap­ple is lead­ing the way in health­care

Mac|Life - - CONTENTS - BY Alex Sum­mersby

Ap­ple is firmly lead­ing the way in health­care.

A few months ago, in Mac|Life 139, we re­ported on tech­nolo­gies that make Ap­ple Watch a key health­care and di­ag­nos­tic aid. New de­vel­op­ments re­in­force the trend, and busi­ness news web­site Quartz says “the next stage of the plat­form wars may be in health,” with Ap­ple ahead of the curve.

In Fe­bru­ary, Quartz re­ports, Ap­ple was granted a patent for an AirPod-style charg­ing case that can hold both your Watch and a num­ber of “smart bands,” each of which might be a spe­cial­ized sen­sor in its own right. Ap­ple also holds a sep­a­rate patent for a mod­u­lar Watch at­tach­ment con­tain­ing sen­sors.

This raises the prospect of be­ing able to choose from a range of sen­sors for dif­fer­ent health needs, or even com­bine options to man­age com­plex con­di­tions. As Quartz notes, AliveCor al­ready of­fers an ac­ces­sory called Kar­dia­band — the first elec­tro­car­dio­gram reader for Ap­ple Watch ap­proved by the US FDA — which may also be able to de­tect high po­tas­sium lev­els present in the blood.

Sep­a­rately, it turns out that the heart rate mon­i­tors built into wear­ables such as the Ap­ple Watch and Fit­bit can de­tect ab­nor­mal heart rhythms with 97% ac­cu­racy, ac­cord­ing to a study by the team be­hind the Car­dio­gram app for Ap­ple Watch in con­junc­tion with re­searchers at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, San Fran­cisco.

“We think that only Ap­ple can make med­i­cal sur­veil­lance bear­able, much less cool,” Quartz says. “The over­all mar­ket for watches is likely smaller than phones but Ap­ple’s com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tages in de­sign, tech­nol­ogy, and data se­cu­rity could give it a sig­nif­i­cantly higher mar­ket share in watches.”

Ap­ple does not cur­rently re­lease de­tails of Ap­ple Watch sales. How­ever, mar­ket re­search firm IDC es­ti­mates that Ap­ple shipped 8 mil­lion Watches in the De­cem­ber quar­ter, beat­ing its ri­val Fit­bit. Ac­cord­ing to For­tune, Ap­ple sold more watches in the quar­ter than Rolex, Omega, and Swatch com­bined. In April, In­tel an­nounced that it was dis­band­ing its New De­vices Group, its ven­ture into wear­ables (in­clud­ing AR glasses), into which it had poured hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars in the search for new growth mar­kets to com­ple­ment its chip busi­ness. Ap­ple will no doubt still face com­pe­ti­tion in the fu­ture, but it cer­tainly seems to be lead­ing the pack when it comes to smart wear­ables.

Kar­dia­band is the first elec­tro­car­dio­gram reader for Watch ap­proved by the US FDA.

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