Five mHealth patent applications from Apple

By Brian Dolan
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Apple Patent Baby MonitorSure, the latest patent application that Apple filed for an embedded heart rate sensor received a ton of largely unwarranted hype, but Apple has busily applied for and received (some) patents related to wireless health, biometrics and fitness. Here are five Apple patents we have tracked during the past year, including the much-talked-about heart rate authentication one:

Smart garment, April 15, 2010: A sensor authenticated to a garment transfers information, either wirelessly or wired, to an external data processing device. Such information includes location information, physiometric data of the individual wearing the garment, garment performance and wear data (when the garment is an athletic shoe, for example). The external data processing device can be portable digital media players that are, in turn, in wireless communication with a server computer or other wireless devices. More

Activity monitoring systems and methods, March 31, 2009: An activity monitor, comprises housing for attachment to a person; at least one accelerometer disposed within the housing; and a processor disposed within the housing, for processing signals from the accelerometer to assess activity of the person. A method assesses activity of a person, including: sensing acceleration at a first location on the person; processing the acceleration, over time, to assess activity of the person; and wirelessly communicating information indicative of the activity to a second location. More

Wireless bandaid baby monitor, June 25, 2009: Last year we wrote about a new Apple patent that covered the “technological make-up of a monitoring device” and a “transponder that reflects event data,” which by example is presented as a mobile phone – heart rate detector system as well as a mobile phone – weight sensor, temperature sensor or chemical sensor system. Apple noted that a "monitor device" preferably includes an adhesive strip that provides for convenient attachment of the device to an object or person. The same patent also cited a use case for in-home baby monitoring alarm system that includes a Band Aid-like sensor that would be attached to the child’s foot. The device then synchs to the baby’s body movement, breathing sounds, pulse or respiratory rate via the sensor. The device also sounds alerts and alarms when the baby’s heart rate, respiration or pulse are absent. More

Earbud for tracking biometrics, December 14, 2009: An Apple patent that covers a couple of methods for using a wireless earbud to track a user’s blood oxygen level, body temperature, heat flux and heart rate surfaced late last year. The patent application notes that the earbud could use infrared photodetectors to monitor the user’s biometrics. More

Heart rate authentication method, May 6, 2010: The most recent wireless health related patent application that Apple has filed came just last week: An “integrated sensor for detecting a user’s cardiac activity” embedded into an electronic device, like an iPhone. Apple writes that the sensor may be hidden from view but could use “electrical signals generated by the user can be transmitted from the user’s skin through the electronic device housing to the leads.” The device could then use these signals to “identify or authenticate the user and perform an operation based on the identity of the user. In some embodiments, the electronic device can determine the user’s mood from the cardiac signals and provide data related to the user’s mood.” More

As we have said before, Apple files many more patents than they do launch products, so these patents should not be taken to mean a related product is forthcoming. Clearly, though, Apple has its eye on wireless health, biometrics and fitness.

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