Apple and Sony tool up for the forthcoming medical gadget war: Will an Apple a day keep the doctor away?

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Whilst we’re here wondering if the next big thing is going to be wearables or, god forbid, pointlessly curvy tellies, the big tech corporations seem to have different ideas as in recent days both Apple and Sony have been spotted making moves in the medical sphere.

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Let’s start with Apple, where it is close to an open secret that they’re working on an “iWatch”. Whilst nobody knows the details yet, if analysts are reading the runes correctly, it’s not just going to be another screen to receive text messages on – but it’ll be a device in which the medical applications will play a big part.

The 9to5Mac blog have uncovered that Apple have recently hired Nancy Dougherty, who is a former head of R&D at a company that make tiny medical sensors. Here’s one description from FastCompany:

The needle-less, sensor-laden transdermal patch is painless (I handled a prototype, which felt like sandpaper on the skin) and will soon be able to monitor everything you might find on a basic metabolic panel-a blood panel that measures glucose levels, kidney function, and electrolyte balance. Already, Sano’s prototype can measure glucose and potassium levels. There are enough probes on the wireless, battery-powered chip to continuously test up to a hundred different samples, and 30% to 40% of today’s blood diagnostics are compatible with the device.

So it’s easy to imagine the iWatch having something like this on the strap, so that it can constantly monitor your health.

This tallies with the expectation that the iWatch will also replicate the functions of the various exercise bracelets you can currently buy, like the Nike+ or the Fitbit. Presumably after mashing all of this data together, Apple can provide you with some useful health advice – who knows, maybe we’ll start getting notifications like “Hmm… shouldn’t you see a doctor about that?”.

So what about Sony? The Verge are reporting today that they’re forming a new genome analysis company that will be able to sequence the personal genomes of individuals. Whilst the article talks of the implications for research institutions and hospitals and the like, this could also be a significant move for individual consumers. Sony clearly think that personalised medicine is a big deal – so it wouldn’t be surprising if some of the technology or knowledge seeps over into its consumer electronics business too. Heck – we all know that as soon as Apple debut a health-centric iWatch, the rest of the industry will be racing to catch up – and this new department from Sony could give them certain advantages when it comes to analysing health analytics.

So expect to hear a lot more about medical sensors in the next year. Google, Samsung: It’s your move!

James O’Malley