Your Apple Watch is apparently going to get a lot smarter in the months ahead.
Future models may be able to measure blood sugar levels, blood pressure and blood alcohol, according to some revelations from one of Apple's suppliers. But it's unknown whether all those features will be available in the Apple Watch 7, expected to be revealed this autumn.
That's because British company Rockley Photonics, which makes sensors for wearables, doesn't expect to deliver the silicon photonics chipsets needed for those health monitoring features until the first half of 2022, it said.
UK newspaper The Telegraph first reported on the filing, in which Rockley says that Apple is its biggest customer. The company says its products are being designed for several uses, including medical devices to track blood pressure, body temperature, blood glucose, blood alcohol, and blood oxygen levels.
Expanded medical tracking would likely interest consumers, especially those with type 2 diabetes, who may need to test their blood sugar several times daily.
Rockley's "clinic on the wrist" technology uses infrared sensors to detect various medical readings through the skin, which the company claims is better than the technology used in current wearables.
When Apple introduced its Watch in 2014, it was presented as a stylish fashion accessory that offered communication abilities. Media at the time covered it as a luxury item - there was a model priced at US$17,000. In recent years, Apple has pivoted its marketing and pushed the Watch as a health and fitness device, with key features such as fall detection and electrocardiogram sensors.
The Apple Watch 6 currently can read blood oxygen levels, check your heart rhythm, and heart rate. And the latest Samsung Galaxy smartwatches, the Galaxy Watch3 and Galaxy Watch Active2, can monitor your blood pressure, once calibrated with a traditional blood pressure measuring cuff.
Apple has been working on blood glucose tracking for several years, with chief executive Tim Cook testing a device back in 2017. And there were reports that feature might come to the Apple Watch 7, according to MacRumors.
Blood pressure monitoring could be included in the next model because Apple has a relevant patent, tech news site Tom's Guide reported.
Consumers want more health features and Rockley estimates the market for medical wearables and devices as more than US$48 billion by 2025. And the wearables, home and accessories category has been a hit for Apple with sales up 24 per cent to US$7.8 billion in the first quarter of 2021, after a record fourth quarter 2020 when sales rose 20 per cent to US$13 billion.
"I still think we're in the early innings on the watch," Cook said last week. "This is a long way from being a mature market."
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