Apple’s latest 'Ipatent' – Fuelling the buzz around Healthcare & Wearables

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On August 11th a patent was published by Apple Inc. which indicates the tech giant is committing further to the healthcare industry. This particular patent describes a device that uses a number of different sensors to record electrocardiograph (ECG) signals coming from the user. The part of the patent, which is particularly innovative, is where it describes the ECG monitor as ‘not sensitive to the user’s heart’ like the current machines we are familiar with. This device has not been named and therefore could be in the form of a watch, ring, or broach.

Wearable technology is an industry that Apple has been interested in for a while. After the release of the Apple Watch on April 24th 2015 and the disappointing results that followed, one might think that the company would veer away from the industry. On the contrary, the increasing number of related patents that Apple is filing does not indicate they are giving up on it yet. If you look at their patent titled ‘Devices and methods for a ring computing device’ (App number: 61973469) which was published in October 2015 you can see that Apple was still keen on developing technology, in the form of a ring this time, to pair with an external device.

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What is also very interesting to see is the number of times that particular patent has been cited by competitors between now and last October. Osterhout Group, Analog Devices, and Lenovo have used this particular patent to develop their own Intellectual Property. Now as we are all aware having a patent granted does not necessarily mean the product will actually go ahead. What this does tell us though is that there is an interest in this industry and it indicates that there is innovation happening in this space.

From the perspective of the healthcare industry, there has been a large increase in the number of wearables entering the marketplace however there has also been a huge advancement in the development of Biosensors. The trend suggests that not only will they become incorporated into our clothing but also within our bodies as time progresses. To give a general idea of the rate of innovation in the three spaces I have combined the three industries together and searched the PatSnap insights platform for patent applications and patents granted over the last ten years. You can see from the graph below the results and how there has been a surge of new patents within the last three years, which shows an increasing interest.

To gain an insight into who the big players are within the three industries above there is a useful tool within PatSnap Insights that presents you with the top 10 companies based on the size of their patent portfolios. Let's look at the viewpoint of Apple when thinking about going ahead with wearable technology within healthcare. For them it is extremely valuable to know who else is frequently patenting, as those companies may become direct competitors in the future. This knowledge can be a strategic advantage if used correctly.

It will certainly be an interesting road ahead as the wearable space becomes more entwined with the healthcare space. When GlaxoSmithKline began running an RA trial on Apple’s ‘ResearchKit’ application earlier this year we all knew that healthcare applications were becoming a priority for Apple. The question is will the healthcare industry provide a big enough boost to Apple’s wearable technology for it survive?