Apple Develops Smart Pedometer Tech That Could Feature In iWatch [Patent]


Apple dropped another heavy hint about its interest in the iWatch on Thursday, as it published a patent application relating to a smart watch-mounted pedometer.

The Wrist Pedometer Step Detection patent application is another example of Apple’s interest in health-tracking technology for future devices. The application describes a method for optimally detecting steps, which uses advanced algorithms to filter out much of the “noise” that might lead lead to it missing or inaccurately recording steps.


Like the Nike FuelBand, Apple’s pedometer patent application can intelligently discern between different types of arm movement.

Prior to smartwatches and other wrist-worn health trackers, pedometers were typically worn on a person’s body, making it much easier to track steps. Since measuring the movement of arm swings could just as easily be a step taken or a hand typing on a keyboard, the device needs to understand signals from the build-in tri-axis accelerometers that would be included in the device.

It also seeks to intelligently understand where on the body the pedometer is located, so that accurate records of both steps taken and distance traveled could be inferred wherever the pedometer was.


This diagram gives a high level overview of how the technology might work.

The Wrist Pedometer Step Detection was filed by Apple in September 2012. It names Yash Modi as its inventor. Interestingly, Modi now works as the Senior Algorithms Engineer for Nest Labs, which was purchased by Google earlier this year.

About the author

Luke DormehlLuke Dormehl is a UK-based journalist and author, with a background working in documentary film for Channel 4 and the BBC. He is the author of The Formula: How Algorithms Solve All Our Problems, And Create More and The Apple Revolution, both published by Penguin/Random House. His tech writing has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, Techmeme, and other publications. He'd like you a lot if you followed him on Twitter.

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