There are always rumors flying around about the secret projects that Apple's working on. Most of the rumors are bullshit. But there's been talk for at least a year now about a watch product that Apple's working on, and I find these rumors to be more interesting than most. Here's the latest, from Apple Insider:
Apple may turn to optoelectronic sensor technology to help users of the company's so-called "iWatch" keep track of their heart rate and blood oxygen saturation, according to a Friday report from China.
Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple was also considering the addition of blood glucose monitoring, but that feature is believed to have been scrapped due to the "inaccuracy" of using optoelectronics for non-invasive blood glucose testing.
Apple has certainly hired its share of biometrics experts in the last few months, which gives at least some credence to these rumors. (Although these biometrics experts could also be working on the next iPhone, for all we know.) The idea of a device that keeps close track of your health information is an interesting one. There have been a bunch of health-tracking devices on the market over the last few years, and some of them reportedly work pretty well, but Apple has always been good at perfecting a clunky idea and making it ubiquitous (the iPod wasn't the first mp3 player, but it soon became the best-selling one; the iPhone certainly wasn't the first smartphone, but it changed the industry overnight). If they can do that for health-monitoring devices, that's the sort of idea that could change the (body) shape of America.
This is going to sound obvious, but bear with me: When people have access to more information, they tend to behave in a smarter way. When calorie information is available in restaurants, people order healthier options. When cigarettes come with health warnings, fewer people smoke. If Apple makes an irresistible device that tracks your health in a fun, data-driven way, people will behave in healthier ways. It could be almost a video-game-ification of health information, where people try to get their active pulse rate down, and so on. I would absolutely be interested in a device like this. I already use a pedometer for my long weekend walks, and I track how far I go. I always try to up the distance of the walks, because I'm a human and humans are competitive. If Apple does an iWatch right—gives it lots of neat tech-functions, makes it attractive and simple, and also provides comprehensive health information automatically and in an effortless way—you will see a good chunk of America getting healthier. (By "a good chunk of America," I of course mean "the Apple-product-buying chunk of America," which, unfortunately, means poor Americans will be excluded yet again.)
Or I could be full of shit. What do you think?