The next platform war
How Apple is leading the way in healthcare
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.