[ExI] Smart watching

John Clark johnkclark at gmail.com
Mon Sep 8 17:29:44 UTC 2014

On Sun, Sep 7, 2014 at 2:11 PM, Rafal Smigrodzki <rafal.smigrodzki at gmail.com
> wrote:

> I am thinking about buying a smartwatch as a medical monitoring device
> that could perhaps be programmed to raise alarm, perhaps even automatically
> call Alcor, if I became deanimated.

Don't buy one today because Tomorrow Apple is supposed to announce its
iWatch. The following was on page 1 of the business section of the New York

The company was not the first to create a digital music player when it
introduced the iPod 13 years ago. But the device, with its click wheel and
slick integration with the iTunes software that ran on a computer, took
digital music into the mainstream.

Nor will Apple be the first to introduce a so-called smartwatch when it
unveils its much-anticipated wristband device on Tuesday, along with two
iPhones. But if the company gets it right, it could be the first to make
average people want to buy one of these devices.

Wearable computers — attached to a wrist, a belt, a lapel or even a head —
have so far been the property of serious gadget enthusiasts and
calorie-counting fitness buffs. While a lot of attention has been paid to
Google Glass, for example, the computer-in-eyewear is as well-known for the
privacy controversy it has caused as for its technical trailblazing.

Smartwatches have not fared much better. Samsung, Apple’s biggest rival,
introduced the first of its six smartwatches last year with a commercial
that recounted watches that have appeared in science fiction entertainment,
from “The Jetsons” to “Star Trek.” A long list of other tech companies like
Motorola and LG have also introduced smartwatches, but none of them have
been anywhere near as popular as the movies and television shows featured
in the Samsung ad.

Has that left an opening for Apple with the product that the media has
labeled the iWatch? Perhaps, analysts say, if the company can court
partners in other industries like health care — health monitoring is
believed to be a major feature — as cleverly as it courted the music

Apple, based in Cupertino, Calif., spent years negotiating with the music
industry to get music sold legally on iTunes, which happened two years
after the iPod went on sale. “I believe they’ve been doing that with the
health market,” said Tim Bajarin, an analyst for the firm Creative

Not everyone thinks everyday consumers will embrace smartwatches just
because Apple is making one. Jan Dawson, an independent technology analyst
for Jackdaw Research, conducted surveys with thousands of consumers and
found that interest in some of the features in smartwatches, like fitness
tracking and mobile payments, was low.

“Smartwatches, as they currently stand, are trying to meet needs which most
people simply don’t have,” Mr. Dawson said.

Little is publicly known about what exactly the Apple watch will do other
than track some fitness statistics, make wireless payments and handle some
mobile computing tasks like maps.

“I’m hoping it’s something more akin to at least one of the high-end
fashion watches, something you wouldn’t be ashamed to go to the Oscars
with,” said Carl Howe, an analyst for the research firm the Yankee Group.

The people who created the watch have been described by Apple employees as
an “all-star team.” Apple’s top designers and engineers who worked on its
iPhone, iPad and Macs are all part of it, several Apple employees said.

And important Apple executives have been closely supervising the product,
employees say. Among them are Jeff Williams, Apple’s senior vice president
of operations, and Jonathan Ive, Apple’s head of design. Other key players
include Kevin Lynch, formerly chief technology officer of Adobe, who has
been supervising the watch’s software; Jay Blahnik, a fitness consultant
who worked on Nike’s FuelBand device; and Michael O’Reilly, a former chief
medical officer of the Masimo Corporation, a company based in Irvine,
Calif., that makes devices for monitoring patients.

Apple designs both the hardware and software of its products, which gives
it deeper control than its rivals over things like chip design, battery
life and smarter sensors for monitoring the wearer, said Daniel Matte, an
analyst for the research firm Canalys.

But making the product is just the first step. Apple needs the support of
partners, like app developers, health care companies and medical technology
companies, that will help create the functions that give people a reason to
want to wear a computer around their wrist all the time in the first place,
said Mark A. McAndrew, a partner with the law firm Taft Stettinius &
Hollister <http://www.taftlaw.com/>, which works with health and science

Lining up deals with music labels and persuading them to agree to a charge
of 99 cents a song on iTunes was one of the reasons the iPod became
popular, say analysts. While the device itself was easy to use, it became a
gateway to a music catalog that at the time none of Apple’s competitors
could offer.

But patient privacy, which is closely guarded by the Health Insurance
Portability and Accountability Act, could be a tricky issue for Apple, Mr.
McAndrew said. Apple will have to carefully police any health-related apps
to ensure that sensitive patient information is not accessible in any way
to hackers, he said.

“That’s where the privacy issue comes into play, because health care
providers are scared to death of data breaches and privacy issues,” he
said. “They’ve got to figure out a way to get them comfortable.”

Apple has taken some steps to keep health data private. Last week, it
updated its guidelines for app developers
<https://developer.apple.com/app-store/review/guidelines/#healthkit>, which
state that apps working with HealthKit, Apple’s new set of tools for
tracking fitness and health statistics, were not allowed to store data on
iCloud, among other rules.

Mr. Bajarin of Creative Strategies believes Apple has been quietly working
with many partners in the health industry to prepare for its
health-monitoring watch. This year, when Apple introduced its new
health-tracking tool kit, the company said it had been working closely with
the Mayo Clinic and Epic Systems, a health care software company.

Improving health monitoring could be something of a personal mission for
Apple. In the Walter Isaacson biography of Steven P. Jobs, an anecdote
about the late Apple chief recounted his hatred for the design of some of
the health-monitoring devices being used on him in the hospital where he
was being treated for cancer, like masks and the oxygen monitor on his

“Steve in his last years had an amazingly difficult relationship with the
health care industry,” Mr. Bajarin said. “This is probably one of Steve’s
last big things that he personally drove.”
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