Why the Apple Watch Will Matter — One Day

Credit: Courtesy Apple.com

Over the past year, Apple has assembled an army of medical device experts with the aims of building the iWatch, a fitness and health-tracking device that can measure your heart rate and pulse, speed, calories burned, and a host of medical information. What we saw announced today is not that all-in-one, transformative health tracker some of us expected. Sure, it's an impressive new device that is an extension of the now-popular fitness trackers — like the Fitbit, Fuelband, or Jawbone — but it requires you to carry your iPhone around for most of its capabilities and doesn't do much more than the most advanced fitness trackers today. Given Apple's recent hires of medical experts and chip developers, the company is undoubtedly looking beyond the fitness market, building the foundation for a game-changing medical device to come.

First, the benefits of the current Apple Watch: This device's capabilities extend beyond what so many fitness trackers do now. Adding pulse and heart rate monitoring — through infrared and visible LEDs and sensors on the back of the watch — is a huge fitness aid, helping runners, swimmers, and walkers to train by heart rate and get a very real sense of what they're putting into their workouts (there's no lying to yourself if your measuring your pulse). The majority of trackers are more rudimentary and only measure steps, distance and calories. It should be noted that any stats are still excellent motivators, especially for the office set looking for movement motivation to lose weight or keep out of their office chairs. But if you want to use a tracker for performance — to shed seconds off your 5K, or minutes off your marathon — a heart rate monitor is a huge advantage.

In the future, we expect Apple to make use of its new hires like Ravi Narasimhan, former vice president of biosensor maker Vital Connect, and Nancy Dougherty, whose previous company has sensors that can track blood glucose levels, to come up with innovative ways to monitor blood sugar, body temperature, or hydration levels. With the Watch, Apple is aiming to eventually build an entirely new, all-in-one medical, fitness, and, sure, wearable extension of the iPhone that could redefine the way we keep tabs on our health, or even how we see the doctor. For now, the Apple Watch is all potential — stacking an array of new infrared sensors that can basically see through your skin — which we will likely see unfolding in the near future as third-party developers make use of some of the sensors within and Apple looks to build its next-gen Watch.