After the WWDC 2021 event of WatchOS 7, Apple vice president Kevin Lynch announced the new features of Apple Health which include monitoring the health potential of “Sensor Fusion” in more Apple devices like AirPods.
A week after WWDC, Lynch spoke to TechCrunch about the plans of the Apple Health platform, which initially started with the Apple Watch and fitness tracking.
“It’s been amazing how much it’s evolved over time. It actually started from Apple Watch, where we were capturing heart rate data for calorimetry activity, and [Activity] ring closure, and we needed a place to put the heart rate data. So we created the Health app as a place to store the data,” Lynch said.
Lynch claimed that Apple noticed that users were bringing their resting heart rate data to doctors, particularly if they were elevated heart rates. Apple received letters regarding the Apple Watch helped a healthcare provider discover medical issues.
“We still get letters today about our work in the space, which is amazing. But some of those early letters were clueing us into, ‘Wait, we could actually look for that ourselves in the background,'” Lynch.
After this Apple began introducing features like high and low heart rate alerts and also started hiring more medical professionals to help chart a new path for Apple Health.
That includes recently announced features at WWDC 2021, including Walking Steadiness and this feature is evolved from Fall Detection.
“Some of these things can be harder to change. But with walking steadiness, there are exercises you can do to improve your walking steadiness. And so we built those into the Health app. You can watch the videos and do the exercises and work to improve your steadiness ahead of falling,” Lynch said.
Walking Steadiness, Fall Detection, and even the heart rate alerts fall under the category of features that Apple thinks of as an “Intelligent Guardian”. The Apple Watch wasn’t initially planned to protect user health, the early letters of the device inspired the direction that the wearable would take.
The Apple VP also mentioned secure data sharing, which evolved from Apple Health and Movement Study. And it is suggested as a natural extension of the “Intelligent Guardian” approach.
Lynch also suggested that Apple could include other types of device-borne sensors in its Health ecosystem, including those in AirPods. The Apple Health system already uses “sensor fusion” to collect useful data from an iPhone or Apple Watch.
TechCrunch asked Lynch about the AirPods, which has its suite of health sensors, that could add to the health system.
“We already do sensor fusion across some devices today, and I think there are all kinds of potential here,” Lynch said.
The potential integration of Apple health features in AirPods has long been rumored. Back in 2018, Ming-Chi Kuo claimed that AirPods could integrate with an Apple Watch and other devices for better health management.
Apple also has filed several permit applications related to the introduction of health features on a pair of AirPods which includes various sensors to track heart rate, movement, or other health metrics.