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Apple is suddenly really interested in health tech

We know Apple CEO Tim Cook loves his Nike (s nke) FuelBand. And the fitness-tracking wristband seems to be inspiring how the company is thinking about its own wearable device: it’s begun hiring several experts in health tech.

As first reported by 9to5Mac, Apple(s AAPL) has been bringing on board experts in sensors that monitor the human body. They’re from companies like AccuVein, C8 MediSensors and Senseonics.

The report doesn’t name specific hires from AccuVein — which makes medical devices that can help detect a person’s veins from outside the body — but said Apple has recruited scientists from there.

Two specific names that were reported:

  • Ueyn Block, who left C8 MediSensors in January, was hired by Apple in March as technical lead for optical sensing, according to his LinkedIn profile.
  • Todd Whitehurst, in charge of team that developed an “implantable continuous glucose monitor” at Senseonics, was hired by Apple in the last few weeks as a director of hardware development.

C8 MediSensors went out of business, but Apple hired several of its former employees, according to the company’s former CEO:

During a phone call, the former CTO told us that the company broke down because the glucose-level-analysis technology was facing issues surrounding the consistency of data readings. When the company dissolved, Apple moved aggressively to hire several C8 MediSensors directors and engineers, including designers and scientists that specialize in machine learning (a form of artificial intelligence that focuses on interpreting forms of data), Hofmeister said.

The future of wearable tech: where does Apple fit?

The wearable technology market is expected to grow immensely in popularity in the next few years: one firm estimates the 500,000 smartwatches that have shipped so far this year will explode to 5 million units by the end of 2014. The optimism built into the numbers comes from the long-held assumption that Apple will do its own smartwatch. But lots of big consumer electronics companies will help bring the devices into the mainstream: that may include Microsoft, Motorola and Samsung, in addition to entries from smaller, niche companies like Pebble.

But wearable computing includes far more than watches. There’s Google Glass,(s GOOG) of course, and simple fitness-tracking, wrist-worn devices like Nike’s, and products from Jawbone, Fitbit and others. Clothing with sensors in them will be part of the mix too, like Heapsylon’s smart socks that infuse material with sensors that track body processes and movements.

The frequency of reports about the progress of Apple’s wearable device project have picked up in recent months. The company has registered the “iWatch” trademark in several countries, and is said to still be hiring hardware engineers to work on it.

But will it be an actual watch? Based on the kinds of people Apple is hiring, the device may have a health or fitness component to it that will take advantage of the company’s vast third-party app platform and its expertise in mobile hardware. It will probably tell time, and it may be worn on the wrist — Cook has said he finds that area “interesting.” Still, “watch” is a little too simplistic considering the kind of sensors it’ll likely have inside it.

10 Responses to “Apple is suddenly really interested in health tech”

  1. Krishna Parmar

    We know Apple CEO Tim Cook loves his Nike FuelBand. And the fitness-tracking wristband seems to be inspiring how the company is thinking about its own wearable device: it’s begun hiring several experts in health tech.

  2. Geomekatron Dedektör

    Ayrımlı Manyetometre DEDEKTÖR sektöründe yeni teknolojilerle faaliyet gösterip üstün nitelikli ayrımlı manyetometre’ler sunmaktayız. GEOMEKATRON ayrımlı Manyetometre 3d metal, boÅŸluk, su ayırabilen bu ürünü tüketicilere ulaÅŸtırıp hayatlarında “teknoloji farkı” oluÅŸturmayı amaçlamaktadır.

  3. Sterling Shosted

    I am aware of a prominent cardiologist that has developed many physician based apps that will successfully transition health care and patient diagnostic procedures. Interested?

  4. David Schechter

    The holy grail is external blood pressure monitoring off a sensor, not cuff.
    There are patents and there is a producxt, but nothing that is selling or effective yet commercialy

    Would apple take this on?

  5. A lot of players out there that have developed a whole number of wireless health monitoring technologies (sensors/patches, etc.)already. Been in this space for over thirty years and the big companies like Philips, Covidien, and a number of start-ups are all over this. The i-Phone will simply be used as a gateway using Low Power Bluetooth to LPBT devices. Actually working with on wireless EKG -1/3/12 lead sensor that is LPBT to i-Phone. David H. Hoglund – President

  6. I believe there could be an evolution/revolution in health care monitoring if Apple and others seriously considered developing sensors and software that non-invasively and wirelessly captured patients vital signs, transmitting them to tablets, bedside devices, etc. As an anesthesia provider for 38 years I remain very disappointed in the lack of refinement and relatively archaic equipment and devices available to monitor patients and capture their vital signs. Dennis Gundersen, CRNA

  7. Until the time comes that the Jawbone, Fitbit, or Nike products track the info on their own, a smart move is to enable the app to track data entry by the user. Things such as elimination, menstrual, blood sugar level, and blood pressure/heart rate patterns would be useful and can be entered or left out (just like nutrition intake and the Jawbone UP app).

  8. Erica, I might have reworded the title of your post today. I’m not so sure that Apple is “suddenly really interested” in health tech. If I am not mistaken, I think GigaOm had an article months ago about how Apple wooed Bob Mansfield (SVP of Technologies at Apple) to stay at Apple instead of retire, and in that article someone had mentioned Bob’s strong interest in health related technology.