While recent rumors and hiring on Apple's part suggest that the company's long-rumored iWatch may have a greater emphasis on health than expected, a newly uncovered patent shows that Apple has been working on wearable health sensors since the release of the original iPhone.
According to this patent filing from 2008 for a "Sports monitoring system for headphones, earbuds and/or headsets," Apple has been thinking about ways it could build sensors for measuring things like motion, temperature, perspiration and heart rate into the devices we use every day for more than half a decade.
Here's what Apple envisioned building into the headphones back in 2008:
A monitoring system that can be placed proximate to the head or ear of a user is disclosed. According to one embodiment, the monitoring system can be used with headphones, earbuds or headsets. The monitoring system can, for example, be used to monitor user activity, such as during exercise or sporting activities. The positioning of the monitoring system can also facilitate sensing of other user characteristics (e.g., biometric data), such as temperature, perspiration and heart rate. The monitoring system can also be used to control a an electronic device. In one embodiment, the monitoring system facilitates user control of the electronic device using head gestures.
The 2008 filing was not the first made by Apple regarding wearable sensors; in fact, it simply took precedence over a provisional filing made for the same technology made in October 2007 — the same year it released the first iPhone and nearly nine months before the "App Store" became available.
If there's one thing that Apple should be known for by now, it's for playing the long game when it comes to building, testing and releasing new technology. While it's tempting to focus on the recent developments around iWatch, it's also important to remember that Apple has been thinking about this for a very long time and has likely tried a number of designs in its labs in Cupertino, Calif.