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Apple Watch – patents are flowing, but what will we see 1st?

Apple Watch has plenty more in store…

Apple Watch patents

Late to the party

Apple Watch was one of the devices from Apple that I could never truly get my head around.

I just couldn’t really ever understand how it would benefit me, or what it was about…but, how wrong I was. I finally weakened after last year’s autumn event when Apple Watch 8 was launched.

Being honest with you, I partly bought it out of curiosity, partly out of thinking I’d get good content out of it, but with little expectation of what it would actually bring to my everyday life.

Right up there

Like nearly all content creators, at the end of the year, I did my round-up of the tech-year, and looked back at the gadgets I’d bought.

During that review, I said that my product of the year was AirPods Pro 2 – and I stand by it, but a very close second would have to be Apple Watch 8. If you’ve not owned, or worn one before, you’ll find it takes a little while to get the most from it. But as it sits there, quietly on your wrist, all the while it’s gathering information on you. Not in a bad way, rather in a way designed to help.

It monitors your activity through the day, and will remind you to get up and move about. You know, as well as me, we’re all guilty of sitting at the desk for too long, in one position, as hours pass by.

In these post COVID times, it’ll check on your blood oxygen levels, which is a handy tool for getting ahead of any possible infections or fevers, and even give you an ECG (of which more later). For women, it can help with cycle tracking, and, of course, if you wear the watch to bed, it will check in on your sleep patterns as well.

Fit and dandy

I make no excuse for the fact, I’m competitive.

Apple Watch has this subtle way of playing mind-games with me. And, as if with perfect timing, as I sit and write this, my watch has just given me another prompt about what I need to do to achieve a move goal…and you know what, it worked too. I’m not going to be beaten by a watch! So, it’s got your back, that’s for sure.

For me, Apple Watch also sent me on another journey too. The marketing team at Apple, rarely miss a trick, and in giving away a three-month trial of Apple Fitness with the watch, they know what they are up to.

I’ll write soon, about my Apple day, but Apple Fitness now fits in to it most days of the week. Of course, the watch is integral to those workouts, and is gathering data on me, pushing me all the while.

New kid on the block

When Apple Watch was released in 2015, it was the first new category for Apple since iPad was debuted in 2010. A new category is a big deal, as we are about to find out with Apple Vision – their first venture in to the worlds of augmented, and virtual reality.

If the headset turns out to be anywhere near as successful as Apple Watch, then the company will, rightfully, feel pretty chuffed.

The numbers on the watch, are astonishing;

  • over 59 million units shipped in 2021 alone
  • over 100 million Apple Watch users globally
  • over 35% of the global smartwatch market
  • a growth in Apple Watch of 76% in 2021
  • annual revenue of $70 billion

With those kinds of numbers, Apple Watch has become an important part of the companies bottom line. And it is because of that, they are constantly looking at ways of improving the experience.

Therefore, any news abut the device, is pretty significant, and over the past few days, there have been some interesting stories surfacing – some good, some, potentially game-changing, and some that could spell problems ahead.

Patent no. 1

The first patent that caught my eye, is one that Apple has actually shown interest in for a few years.

Since 2019, Apple has been filing patents, looking to bring a built-in camera to Apple Watch. That patent, which was finallygranted last year, was for a camera to be placed inside the crown of the watch…but things have moved on. Apple now has other ideas…

In their latest patent application, they seem to be looking into the idea of the camera being on the bottom surface of the watch, which is both an obvious place, and also a position that could cause difficulties.

If you had to undo the band every time you wanted to use your camera, you’d surely simple reach for your phone instead, right? Well, to get around that issue, this patent is for a wristband, which would have two segments, with the top – incorporating the watch itself, and easily be able to be detached from the bottom part of the assembly.

So, if you wanted to take a picture with your watch, all you’d do is pull the top part from your wrist, point, shoot, and then click it back in position when done.

I guess, this could be particularly useful in the kind of situations that you’d have historically used a GoPro camera for – sports, and demanding activities.

Patent no. 2

The wristband, is clearly in the line of Apple’s vision when it comes to the watch.

It’s already spawned an entire industry, with the bands becoming a fashion statement. But, there is more to come.

Keeping in line with their sustainability, and environmental policies, they are now looking in to ways that the band can remain current, and fresh, but without the need to continually buy new ones.

This latest patent, that I spotted yesterday, is for a wristband, that will have the ability to change to at least three colours. They are developing a fabric strap with special electrochromic features that can either be adjusted to match your attire or provide a notification to the user.

BMW showcased similar technology at this year’s CES, and it’s already used in smart windows, helping them change from light to dark to save energy costs.

The big one

The rumours of Apple Watch being able to monitor diabetes have been circling forever. Stories that Apple is developing a non-invasive, glucose sensor for the Apple Watch remain a dream – for now.

The most accurate way to monitor blood glucose levels, is through constant monitoring. If Apple could work out a way to measure diabetes, it would be an ideal scenario, as the watch is on your wrist, for so many hours of the day, already. It would also mean, that virtually all of your health data would be measured, and collected in one place.

Apple is developing a glucose sensor for the Apple Watch called Raman spectroscopy. The Raman effect occurs when light is scattered by molecules in samples. Importantly for Apple Watch, Raman spectroscopy is non-invasive and does not require any skin penetration, making it an ideal way to monitor blood glucose, on the watch.

There have already been reports of Apple Watch, along with a continuous glucose monitor, helping to, potentially, save the life of CNET producer, Justin Eastzer.

Currently, this technology, is still in development, but Apple knows that if they crack it, what a massive coup that would be for them, and their wearable, fitness device business.

A bit of bad news

This week, in the US, President Biden, has chosen not to block the possibility of an Apple Watch import ban. It depends on the ability of AliveCor to overturn a previous ruling that its patents in question are invalid.

AliveCor, a medical device company, this week said, that the International Trade Commission (ITC) ruling in its favour has been cleared by the White House. AliveCor is concerned over the inclusion of the ECG app on Apple Watch, which they feel is infringing the patents that underpin their industry-leading ECG technology.

If the order were to be enforced, Apple would no longer be able to import new Apple Watch models that support the ECG app. Apple plans to appeal the ITC’s decision in a federal courthouse.

Wrapping up

Apple Watch is big business. Its way exceeded Apple’s wildest dreams of when it was first seen eight years ago.

The fact they took the time, and expense, to develop Apple Watch Ultra last year, shows just how much importance they are placing on it. That, and the fact they continually file for patents, shows they know there is still a lot more mileage in Apple Watch to be developed yet further.

Should they ever be able to bring glucose monitoring to the device, crucially, ahead of the competition, then that would just about be a slam-dunk.

Apple Watch is now an integral part of my day, and, innocuous as it first appears, is probably only just behind the phone for now being irreplaceable in my day-to-day activities.

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