Apple patents health tracking earphones

Latest patent application from tech giant confirms a strong interest in the health and fitness sector - but the company has yet to confirm any solid plans

It seems increasingly likely that Apple’s next major product launch will be in the fitness and health sector after news that the company was recently granted a new patent for a headphone-based “sports monitoring system”.

The application describes technology that could be fitted to headphones or earbuds and that uses a skin sensor to measure biometric data including temperature, perspiration and heart rate. The patent also mentions multiple accelerometers that could be used to track and distinguish between different types of movement.

The application was made back in 2007 but was only recently spotted by tech site Apple Insider. The date of the patent’s filing means that any device was probably being considered for use with the iPod as a device for tracking work-out sessions.

Since then the market has developed, and it now seems likely that Apple be looking at developing either a smartwatch (which so far mainly function as expensive second screens for smartphones, displaying basic notifications and updates) or a fitness tracker (the various bracelets that are worn 24/7 and are used to track movements and fitness).

Fitness trackers such as the Jawbone UP (pictured) have focused on providing data about the wearer's movements.

The possibility of the company releasing a so-called iWatch has been a rumour ever since Apple CEO Tim Cook mentioned that he thought “the wrist is interesting” for development back in May 2013. However, this latest patent describes features that would more likely be found in a fitness tracker, suggesting that perhaps Apple will be looking to unite the two product categories.

In some ways Apple has already begun to move into the sector. Their latest iPhone, the 5S, integrated a mobile chip dedicated to watching the smartphone’s various sensors without wasting battery by powering up the main processor and another recent rumour suggested that a major software update could include a ‘Healthbook’ app that collects and analyses this data.

Smartwatches like the Galaxy Gear (pictured) have been widely promoted but offer little in the way of extra functionality.

Uniting the convenience of a smartwatch with the functionality of a health tracker would be a major coup for Apple, but the company’s reputation means that they’re more likely to spend time tweaking and improving the functionality of the device.

Until Apple makes any announcements though, the more outlandish sort of speculation will continue. A recent article by the San Francisco Chronicle reported that the company was exploring various devices including audio sensors that can “predict heart attacks” by listening to the sound that blood makes as it flows through arteries.

For a company with almost $160 billion (£100 bn) in cash and investments this sort of technology isn't beyond the realms of the imagination, but Apple might have to get a move on to keep ahead in the market: a smart earphone gadget that offers the same functionality as their patent application (and more) recently raised more than $2 million on Kickstarter.

election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

    Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

    £35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

    Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

    £45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Bristol

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment C...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

    'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

    In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
    VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

    How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

    Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
    They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

    Typefaces still matter in the digital age

    A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
    Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

    'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

    New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
    The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

    Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

    Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

    Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
    Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

    Crisp sales are in decline

    As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
    Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

    Ronald McDonald the muse

    A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
    13 best picnic blankets

    13 best picnic blankets

    Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
    Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

    Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

    Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
    Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

    Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

    Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'