Apple Develops Smart Pedometer Tech That Could Feature In iWatch [Patent] | Cult of Mac

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



There have been many wearables and quantified-health applications over the past few years, but most have steered clear of proclaiming themselves medical devices. Some of the rumors about the iWatch (such as the fact that it will be able to listen to the sound blood makes as it flows through arteries, and use this to predict heart attacks) may sound a bit too good to be true. But the number of biosensor and biomedical engineers Apple has snapped up recently makes us think the iWatch could be a device that crosses over firmly into the "medical monitoring" category.

According to one recent report, a reason for the long delay before launch is that Apple is awaiting certification from the Food and Drug Administration to get the iWatch approved as medical equipment. Given Apple's recent announcement of the Health app for iOS 8 to collect and show data on calorie consumption, sleep activity, blood oxygen levels and more, plus the conspicuous absence of a health-tracking fitness band in Apple's last iPhone 5s ad, the idea that the iWatch will be geared toward health seems as close to a foregone conclusion as you get for a device that hasn't even been officially announced yet.

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.

Source: U.S. Patents & Trademark Office


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