Apple’s iWatch Team Adds New mHealth Superstars

7-22-2013 11-02-58 PM

With Google Glass steadily approaching a commercial launch, Apple is falling under growing pressure to bring a market-defining product out of the secretive Cupertino labs and into the spotlight. Adding fuel to the fire was last weeks announcement by Google that the company had developed contact lenses that could monitor glucose levels in a wearer’s tears, potentially replacing the need for invasive glucose reading practices for diabetics.

Google’s announcement signifies two things to the consumer electronics industry: 1) it demonstrates that Google is not afraid to enter the medical device arena, despite the FDA regulatory implications, and 2) it marked the second potentially industry-disrupting new product that Google has unveiled since Apple’s last significant unveil, the iPad.

To those keeping score, it would appear that Google is pulling ahead in the Google vs. Apple tech war. For years, its been assumed that Apple’s response to Google Glass would be the long-awaited iWatch. Driving these rumors has been Apples continued hiring frenzy from all corners of the mobile health and biosensor industry.

HIStalk covered the news last July when Apple scooped departing biosensor experts from C8 MediSensors, a medical device company working on technology that was working to measure glucose levels through the skin with on board spectrometer.

Recently, two more Apple new hires have the rumor mills turning. In December, Nancy Dougherty left mobile tech startup Sano Intelligence, to work on Apple’s iWatch team. At Sano, Nancy was working on an abrasive transdermal patch that connects to a computer chip. The patch is described as containing enough sensors to actively monitor 100 individual samples. The patch is supposedly already capable of passively monitoring glucose levels. According to her LinkedIn profile, Dougherty was solely responsible for the electrical design, testing, integration, and assembly of the patches.

Another big name in the biosensor market, Ravi Narasimhan, also joined the Apple team, leaving his VP of R&D position with Vital Connect. At Vital Connect, Narasimhan was leading a team of researchers working on a biosensor capable of monitoring heart rate, respiration rate, skin temperature, steps, sleep patterns and quality, steps, fall detection, and a single-lead ECG. The company’s SensorFusion algorithms pour over the data once a minute to extract what they call intelligent health measurements for consumers.

While Apple has not appeared on any FDA calendars as of yet, rumors about the smartwatch have been concentrating on high-end on board medical sensor capabilities over the past few months. The company seems to be building a smartwatch aimed at everyday consumers that would introduce far more health data than ever before. The rumors are intriguing, the issue now is that it’s been years of rumors, and there is still no iWatch.

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