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Friday, February 14, 2014

What Do You Think of the iWatch?

Posted by on Fri, Feb 14, 2014 at 1:30 PM

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?


Comments (19) RSS

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I think they're going to have a godawful time with the battery life. Using E-Ink and just a few functions Pebble is able to get a few days. If Apple goes color and touch screen, it's going to need nightly charging.
Posted by arbeck on February 14, 2014 at 1:52 PM · Report this
tainte 2
i get whiplash from slog sometimes. wal mart profits provoke vomit, and then you slobber all over apple's dick.
Posted by tainte on February 14, 2014 at 1:54 PM · Report this
Dougsf 3
You know those Prius drivers so consumed with the dashboard mileage readout they're a menace on the road? Sounds like that, but with life.
Posted by Dougsf on February 14, 2014 at 1:55 PM · Report this
Fnarf 4
This is going to make a huge difference for, uh, a couple of thousand people, all of whom are already as insufferable as it is possible to be without wearing Google Glass. I wonder if there's going to be any overlap on those products?
Posted by Fnarf on February 14, 2014 at 1:58 PM · Report this
fletc3her 5
There are a lot of people wearing technology right now, even on their wrists, but they aren't really watches, more like souped up pedometers. Fitbit, Nike, and others have been coming out with rapid improvements over the last few years.

I'd have two questions about Apple entering this market. First, what can Apple add that the existing companies can't? What would make an Apple product more compelling than existing technologies? Second, is the market for pedometers and health monitors big enough for Apple to care about? So, far these are largely iPhone accessories. Apple dabbles in the market with some case and headphone offerings, but for the most part they have been consent to allow a huge ecosystem to flourish.
Posted by fletc3her on February 14, 2014 at 2:07 PM · Report this
Dougsf 7
I wonder if the watch is going to simply be a bluetooth device tethered to your iPhone like that Droid watch that no one cared about was/is? Its fitness application would be severely limited if that were the case.
Posted by Dougsf on February 14, 2014 at 2:18 PM · Report this
jnmend 8
How about a new poll option: I don't want to wear a fucking watch, regardless of what it does.
Posted by jnmend on February 14, 2014 at 2:21 PM · Report this
watchout5 9
"Just upload all your biometrics to our cloud, everything will be fine user"
Posted by watchout5 on February 14, 2014 at 2:27 PM · Report this
Kinison 10
A smart watch doesn't need to do much, because the more it does, the lower the battery life you'll get on it.

Pebble watches have the right idea, mp3 control, social & email notifications, not much more would you need it for. With E-Ink display, it lasts almost a week on a single charge.
Posted by Kinison on February 14, 2014 at 2:33 PM · Report this
Josh Bis 11
@8 exactly. Just like my iPhone can tell me the time, it can also keep track of how many steps I take (via Moves).
Posted by Josh Bis on February 14, 2014 at 2:34 PM · Report this
Paul, you do realize that something like this would be classified as a medical device and require testing and approval from the FDA, right?
Posted by Solk512 on February 14, 2014 at 2:51 PM · Report this
J. Lasser 13
Paul, conventional wisdom contradicts one of your premises: evidence appears to be that posted calorie counts in restaurants don't change (in the aggregate) diner behavior:…
Posted by J. Lasser on February 14, 2014 at 3:10 PM · Report this
rob! 14
What @9 said. You may find out belatedly that your blood sugar, triglycerides:HDL ratio, and blood alcohol concentration have been uploaded to your insurance company and/or employer on a regular basis.
Posted by rob! on February 14, 2014 at 3:35 PM · Report this
Fnarf 15
@5, regular old watches that just tell time are "technology", and have been around for over a hundred years.
Posted by Fnarf on February 14, 2014 at 4:17 PM · Report this
"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."

It does sound obvious, but it is unfortunately mostly not true, as @13 partially pointed out. As a public health guy, I can tell you that that health information very rarely equals behavior change. To really get people to change their behavior, you have to change the contexts in which that behavior is taken. Calorie counts and warning labels are really only useful in that they (a) shame the companies producing the unhealthful products and (b) are a small step toward the denormalization of the use of the products. For example, here in California a legislator just introduced a measure to put warning labels on soda. From a health policy advocacy perspective (and I could only say this off the record), this is less about the label and more about the media controversy it will generate. Every time this bill is discussed/debated/ridiculed, it will be accompanied by the implicit and/or explicit recognition that the overconsumption of soda is really fucking bad for society. That (very slowly) denormalizes soda consumption, with the goal being changes in consumption. Hopefully in 20 years we will look back at how soda was consumed and marketed today with the same head-slapping that we do now when we watch all the smoking in the office and around children in Mad Men.
Posted by facet on February 14, 2014 at 4:29 PM · Report this
I don't want anything on my wrist, I have a cell phone in my pocket to tell me the time.
Posted by rhombus on February 14, 2014 at 5:45 PM · Report this
Frankly, i'm worried about the privacy implications of an object that will have py oulse, blood pressure, oxygen saturation, blood glucose every five minutes recorded for eternity, uploaded to the Internet and available for perusal by the NSA.
Posted by bozbozeman on February 14, 2014 at 7:43 PM · Report this
@12 I'm doubtful that the FDA would get involved. If they did it would be because some Senator pushed them to because "Apple!".

EHRs and PHRs are not currently regulated by the FDA and for good reason. There are simply too many products and too many lines of code to pick through looking for bugs. I see this kind of device as an offshoot of the PHR where data are stored in some cloud version of the old Google Health Vault.

Apple just needs to be sure to use the appropriate "not intended to diagnose any real issues" language.
Posted by derpyderpington on February 15, 2014 at 4:07 AM · Report this
@19 Medical device regulation is a core part of the FDA. While this speculative device would create PHRs and EHRs, it does so by measuring medical information directly from a person. That's where it likely becomes a medical device.…
Posted by Solk512 on February 15, 2014 at 7:55 AM · Report this

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