Apple is teaming with IBM and Japan Post on a pilot scheme that will hand up to 5 million iPads out to elderly people in Japan by 2020, to help them keep in touch with their families, physicians and community.
In addition to existing iPad apps like FaceTime and Messages, the tablets will come loaded with custom IBM apps designed to help remind senior citizens to take their medication, exercise regularly, and maintain a healthy diet, while also allowing direct access to community support services such as grocery shopping.
“This initiative has potential for global impact, as many countries face the challenge of supporting an aging population, and we are honored to be involved in supporting Japan’s senior citizens and helping enrich their lives,” Tim Cook says. “iPad is incredibly intuitive, easy to use and has accessibility features built in, making it a perfect device for any generation to be connected and engaged.”
Broadly speaking, the move is significant in two key ways. The first is that it represents the next stage in Apple’s relationship with IBM, which began last year, but has up until now been used only to create enterprise tools. Today’s news suggests that this is likely to go further, and expand into other non-business areas.
Secondly, it’s another example of Apple’s push into a space which can be broadly classed as mobile health. The company has previously launched tools such Health and ResearchKit in this area, and the health and fitness-tracking are also a key aspect of the Apple Watch.
Given that the iPad’s falling sales were the one disappointment at Apple’s recent quarterly earnings report, it makes total sense for Apple to target new markets with the device — and the world’s growing elderly population is certainly a good (and potentially lucrative) one.