Apple's med-tech hiring spree hints at iWatch plans

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Apple is building a team of medical technology experts, fueling rumours that the company is adding a health and fitness focus to the iWatch.

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Reuters is reporting that in the past year, Apple has snapped up at least half a dozen prominent experts in biomedicine, according to LinkedIn profile changes.

The report says that one prominent researcher moved two weeks ago, and Apple is recruiting other medical professionals and hardware experts. Several people with backgrounds in sensor technology hardware have also been hired in recent months.

Among those hired by Apple in recent months are: Masimo chief medical officer Michael O’Reilly, Cercacor CTO Marcelo Lamego, Vital Connect’s VP of biosensor technology Ravi Narasimhan and embedded biosensor expert Nima Ferdosi. Some speculate that Alexander Chan, a former biomedical engineer from Vital Connect, is also working for Apple.

Hardware experts Nancy Dougherty, from the wearable sensor company Sano Intelligence and Todd Whitehurst, the VP of product at Senseonics for gluclose monitoring, are reportedly with Apple now, too. Apple’s most recent acquisition is Divya Nag, the founder of StartX Med.

Many analysts believe that Apple is working on bio sensors that will measure various aspects of mobile users’ health, including heart rate, breathing rate, blood sugar levels and more health-related measurements. These sensors could then be used in medical or fitness devices, or perhaps even in the iWatch.

However, one mobile health executive said that after a conversation with Apple, he believes the company’s interest in health and fitness is deeper than just the iWatch.

Although Apple’s first smartwatch will undoubtedly have a strong health and fitness focus, the executive said that Apple might also open a separate app store or marketplace for health-related apps and services.

Apple has registered the trademark “iWatch” in Japan. It is expected that the device will be announced alongside the iPhone 6 in September or with next-generation iPads in October.

Several Apple patents point to wrist-worn devices, and in February, Apple filed a patent for a smart earbud patent that could track steps and detect gestures of the head.

Stuart O’Connor