Apple patent filing explores ways to leverage collected health, fitness data

By Brian Dolan
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HealthkitApple has filed for a handful of new patents related to biometric sensing and tracking, according to a report over at AppleInsider. One of the patents the company filed for, "Method and apparatus for personal characterization data collection using sensors", describes a system that uses data collected by smartphone sensors (accelerometers, gyroscopes, location sensors) and data collected by wearable health devices to build profiles on users to create personalized recommendations for them via ads, more relevantly ordered search results, and more.

While Apple's patents rarely lead to actual commercial products, these are particularly timely given Apple's recently announced HealthKit tracking platform.

"The availability of various sensors in electronic devices such as smartphones, and their ability to wirelessly connect to remote sensors, enables detailed, personalized, activity data collection to occur automatically," the patent filing states. "... For example, a device might determine that at on a certain date, beginning at a certain time, its user was running on a mountain trail in the San Francisco area, for 3 miles which took him or her 50 minutes." 

Apple's patent filing notes that the data could be used to compare users to others like them to develop personal "scorecards" or "grades".

"A 'scorecard may include a numeric value related to a user's activity level. In certain embodiments, a scorecard may assign a letter 'grade' to a user's activity level. The grade may be related to a certain goal preselected by the user and/or the demographics of the user--e.g., age, gender, location, etc. In yet other embodiments, the 'score' may be graphically presented. The graph may depict activity level versus time or date, or versus a selected population of other persons. The scorecard may be specific to one or more selected activities--e.g., cross-country running," the filing reads.

More simply, the collected data could also be used to better automatically sense when a user is undertaking some kind of activity. Using the various onboard smartphone sensors and other wearable ones, Apple's system might be able to tell when a user is running indoors on a treadmill, for example, vs. hiking in the mountains near San Francisco, as per the example above.

The patent filing also mentions that the data could be useful to provide users with suggestions for activities while on vacation, connecting with other users who have similar interests, or even finding people to carpool with who are on similar schedules.