iHealth: Meet the new wearable 'dream team' Apple hired from fashion, fitness & medicine

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited May 2014
As Apple gears up for a new battle in the hotly-contested wearables market, AppleInsider offers a look at the platoon of fashion, fitness, and medical experts that have come to work in recent months for Cupertino's largest taxpayer.

Fitness

FuelBand


Fitness tracking is thought to be one of Apple's primary targets for the so-called "iWatch," with rumors pointing to a number of sensors and a companion "Healthbook" app that would track a range of biometric parameters including heart rate, oxygen saturation, and blood glucose levels.
Apple's fitness-related hires suggest to some that it plans on releasing an 'iWatch' that could track user activity and health.
Jay Blahnik: One of Apple's earliest health hires, Blahnik came on board in August 2013. He is a highly-regarded health and fitness guru, having consulted at one time or another for Nautilus, Gatorade, Schwinn, and Nike, among others.

During his work with Nike, Blahnik played a key role in the development of the popular FuelBand fitness tracker. Apple CEO Tim Cook is known to be a fan of the FuelBand, often seen wearing one and saying at one point that Nike did a "great job" on the device.

How he could help: A new, Nike Fuel-style system to quantify the effects of a user's daily activity.

Ben Shaffer: Shaffer -- like Blahnik, a Nike alum -- ran the shoe and aparrel giant's research and development studio before joining Apple in September 2013. Shaffer was not involved in the FuelBand project, instead leading a group primarily concerned with "footwear innovation."

One of the hallmark footwear products from Shaffer's time was the Flyknit, an ultra-lightweight, ultra-strong line of athletic shoes. Flyknit required the company to create an entirely new manufacturing process, not unlike some projects undertaken by Apple, such as the mass CNC machining process invented for the unibody MacBook Pro.

How he could help: Design and manufacturing processes for wearable products, especially as it relates to ergonomics.

Now hiring: In February, an advertisment for an exercise physiologist briefly appeared on Apple's corporate jobs portal. At the time, the company said the winning candidate would "design and run user studies related to cardiovascular fitness & energy expenditure, including calories burned, metabolic rate, aerobic fitness level measurement/tracking and other key physiological measurements."

How they could help: Understanding how the body reacts to exercise and providing feedback on style, intensity, and results.

Fashion

iPhone 5s


Apple is rumored to be designing the iWatch as equal parts gadget and fashion statement. Well-connected analyst Ming-Chi Kuo believes the device's casing and band will be available in a variety of materials with a price tag running into the thousands of dollars on the high end.

Paul Deneve: Formerly the CEO of French fashion label Saint Laurent, Deneve moved to Cupertino in July 2013. At the time, it was said that he would work on "special projects" and report directly to Cook.
Fashion will be a concern for any wearable devices that hope to gain mass-market adoption.
Deneve worked in Apple's marketing department in the 1990s but left for the fashion industry in 1997. Many believe he was brought back specifically for the iWatch project.

How he could help: A fashion insider's take on the iWatch's design could help ensure people don't feel like they're wearing an iPhone on their wrist.

Angela Ahrendts: Another former fashion CEO, Ahrendts ran British label Burberry until earlier this month. Before moving to London, she served as president of Donna Karan International and on the executive board of Liz Claiborne.

Unlike Deneve, Ahrendts was hired for a well-known and very visible position as the head of Apple's retail operations, both brick-and-mortar and online. Ahrendts is credited for making Burberry's retail experience among the best in fashion, a useful background considering the iWatch's supposed fashion-forward focus.

How she could help: If rumors that the iWatch will be closer to a Rolex than an iPod are true, Apple's retail environment will need an update.

Now hiring: Apple is rumored to have reached out to Swiss watchmakers about new partnerships, while LVMH CEO Jean-Claude Biver accused the company of attempting to lure employees from "several Swiss parts manufacturers."

How they could help: Swiss horologists are experts at component miniaturization and advanced metallurgy, which could make the iWatch smaller and lighter.

Medical Research

Raymann
Photo showing sleep science patient believed to be Dr. Roy Raymann. | Roy Raymann via Twitter


Some of the speculation surrounding the Healthbook app suggests that in addition to working with Apple's iWatch, it will serve as a centralized hub for all iOS-connected health monitoring devices. Apple has been seen in talks with the Food and Drug Administration, likely to ensure that their eventual entry does not cross a line that would require it to be regulated by the agency.

Dr. Roy J.E.M. Raymann: Apple hired Dr. Raymann in February of this year from Dutch technology company Philips's research division, where he served as a senior scientist focusing on sleep research. He also sits on the Scientific Committee of the Dutch Society for Sleep-Wake Research.

Dr. Raymann is a renowned sleep researcher, having published a variety of scholarly works including papers on circadian rhythms and the effects of temperature regulation on sleep. At Philips Research, he consulted on projects involving light and performance, sleep and activity monitoring, measuring temperature, sleep in babies, sleep in psychiatric disorders, sleep phenotyping, sleep enhancement and sleep and breathing.

How he could help: Analyzing users' sleep patterns to help them rest more efficiently and effectively.

Biometric Sensors

Hire
The Masimo rainbow fingerprint sensor. Photo via Wikipedia.


Nearly every iWatch rumor includes the idea that Apple will ship the device with a bevy of biometric sensors designed to track as many facets of the wearer's health as possible, including advanced metrics like blood oxygen saturation and environmental factors such as UV exposure.

Michael O'Reilly & Marcelo Malini Lamago: O'Reilly and Lamago joined Apple in January 2014 and February 2014, respectively, from pulse oximetry firm Masimo and its sister company Cercacor.

O'Reilly was chief medical office and executive vice president of medical affairs at Masimo, while Lamago was CTO of Cercacor. Both worked on noninvasive blood analysis technologies, including Masimo's "Rainbow" platform that assesses "multiple blood constituents and physiologic parameters that previously required invasive or complicated procedures."

How they can help: Optoelectronic technology for monitoring blood oxygen saturation, heart rate, or blood glucose levels.

Nancy Dougherty: Dougherty has been a hardware engineer Apple since December 2013, having joined from wearable sensor startup Sano Intelligence. Before joining Sano, she was a senior engineer at Proteus Digital Health, makers of a "Bluetooth-enabled electronic "Band-Aid" that monitors heart rate, respiration, motion, and temperature, as well as detects technologically enabled "Smart Pills" that are ingested and activated in the stomach."

How she can help: Dougherty has significant experience designing "the whole widget" when it comes to wearable medical devices.

Todd Whitehurst: Before coming to Apple as a hardware development director in July 2013, Whitehurst led research and development teams at a number of medical device manufacturers. He has particular expertise in neurostimulation and previously developed implantable devices for drug delivery and glucose monitoring.

How he could help: Apple is thought to have dropped optoelectronic glucose monitoring and could be exploring more invasive solutions .

Ravi Narasimhan: Narasimhan was added to Apple's payroll in December 2013 after serving as research and development chief of biosensor company Vital Connect, where he worked on wearable medical devices to monitor ECG, respiration, fall detection, posture, and activity. Narasimhan also has significant experience designing wireless communications (Wi-Fi, LTE, and 3G) systems.

How he could help: Apple is said to want the iWatch to be a standalone device, which would likely combine medical sensors with mobile data.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 46
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    Er, 9to5Mac had this article back in February...

    http://tinyurl.com/kr4zyv7
  • Reply 2 of 46
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 30,849member
    When did the "wearables market" become "hotly contested"?
  • Reply 3 of 46
    chipsychipsy Posts: 287member

    The acquisitions definitely prove that Apple is working on health tracking devices. But am I the only one who thinks that most these acquisitions are a little on the late side for a 2014 product release (and certainly when you take into account the time it takes to get FDA clearance which is at least 4 months even for the most basic functions, let alone things like blood analysis :s). I personally have the impression that most of these acquisitions/hires are for a product for next year or so, which could be either an updated iWatch (with this years iWatch having somewhat more basic health related functions) or other wearable.

    Just an impression of course...

  • Reply 4 of 46
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 30,849member
    Before anyone gets too excited, keep in mind that nothing may come of any of this research if any product ideas fail to meet the Apple simplicity test.
  • Reply 5 of 46
    kilimanjarokilimanjaro Posts: 189member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post



    Before anyone gets too excited, keep in mind that nothing may come of any of this research if any product ideas fail to meet the Apple simplicity test.

    True dat.

  • Reply 6 of 46
    This is ALL very exciting and interesting!
  • Reply 7 of 46
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    Before anyone gets too excited, keep in mind that nothing may come of any of this research if any product ideas fail to meet the Apple simplicity test.
    if this is just in the research stage then no way will we see any products this year. Curious to know how you would define the "Apple simplicity test" in the context of what these people may be working on.
  • Reply 8 of 46
    gtrgtr Posts: 3,231member
    Why is Dr Dre not mentioned under the Medical Research category?

    ????
  • Reply 9 of 46
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by GTR View Post



    Why is Dr Dre not mentioned under the Medical Research category?



    ????

     

     

    I'm pretty sure his PhD is in astrophysics, not medicine.

  • Reply 10 of 46
    jax44jax44 Posts: 78member
    gtr wrote: »
    Why is Dr Dre not mentioned under the Medical Research category?

    ????
    Medical marihuana ?
  • Reply 11 of 46
    512ke512ke Posts: 782member
    The problem with this is that Apple will come out with a really cool innovative elegant device. And it will be expensive to create.

    In the case of the iPhone they has time to charge $800 for the first model and come down in price only gradually while competitors played catch up.

    But that was the phone. Now with a watch competitors are going to copy Apple's beautiful creation in a very short amount of time. And they will offer their versions at a lower price immediately.

    This is why priority 1 for Apple is non copiability.

    What could be hard for others to emulate:

    1) brand status/cool factor. If you sell a watch with a Rolex type aura

    Make the war about style. Android is not about chic elegance.

    2) really high end tech features that are difficult to pull off well. Like the fingerprint reader but also *medical tech*

    3) cool expensive challenging and/or rare materials that are hard to integrate for various reasons. Like sapphirre.
  • Reply 12 of 46
    bloggerblogbloggerblog Posts: 1,820member

    I hope Apple waits a few of years before launching a watch. The market needs to demonstrate its irrelevance, which will give Apple the opportunity to look at the past and design a product using the best possible solutions. Besides, I don't think the technology is there yet especially display technology.

  • Reply 13 of 46
    chipsychipsy Posts: 287member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by bloggerblog View Post

     

    I hope Apple waits a few of years before launching a watch. The market needs to demonstrate its irrelevance, which will give Apple the opportunity to look at the past and design a product using the best possible solutions. Besides, I don't think the technology is there yet especially display technology.


    Personally I think that the display technology is ready for it, what isn't ready is the battery technology.

  • Reply 14 of 46
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,147member

    I'm pretty sure his PhD is in astrophysics, not medicine.

    But if they considered that, it would give them a chance to hire Queen's Brian May :)
  • Reply 15 of 46
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,147member
    I hope Apple waits a few of years before launching a watch. The market needs to demonstrate its irrelevance, which will give Apple the opportunity to look at the past and design a product using the best possible solutions. Besides, I don't think the technology is there yet especially display technology.

    It occurred to me recently that all these 'me too companies' that to avoid being branded copiers now try to leap frog Apple at every turn by brining out their crap based on rumors ahead of Apple, achieve for Apple exactly what you suggest in a way. Sorry for the long sentence! :D
  • Reply 16 of 46
    gtr wrote: »
    Why is Dr Dre not mentioned under the Medical Research category?

    ????

    Ask Ming-chi Kuo. He's well-connected.
  • Reply 17 of 46
    512ke wrote: »
    But that was the phone. Now with a watch competitors are going to copy Apple's beautiful creation in a very short amount of time. And they will offer their versions at a lower price immediately. This is why priority 1 for Apple is non copiability.

    Priority One at Apple is "Delight the customer." If the product can't do that, then there's no product. I will agree with you that Apple will have a high bar for their competition to jump, but nothing will be there that is not essential to meet Priority One.

    Through aggressively going after anyone that steals their IP. Apple has served notice that it's expensive to defend oneself when Apple is involved. Finally, as Samsung has learned, Apple has caché and Samsung can't duplicate that, even with 10s of Billions of dollars of Marketing. Galaxy Gear will look like strapping a dog turd onto your wrist compared to what Apple will roll out.
  • Reply 18 of 46
    I hope Apple waits a few of years before launching a watch. The market needs to demonstrate its irrelevance, which will give Apple the opportunity to look at the past and design a product using the best possible solutions. Besides, I don't think the technology is there yet especially display technology.

    First off, it won't be a watch. Apple has let the "me too" crowd believe that while they work on an outstanding biomedical device. Like with the iPhone, the first iteration will be more basic then the next and the next. I cannot imagine what the wearable iDevice may be capable when it's as mature as the iPhone is today.
  • Reply 19 of 46
    aaronjaaronj Posts: 1,595member
    Quote:


    a new battle in the hotly-contested wearables market


     

    OK, am I missing something?  Was there an article somewhere that said that millions of people were buying these things and that profits were in the billions?

     

    Just because lots of people come out with something doesn't really make it "hotly contested" in my mind.  It actually has to be successful product before it's "hotly" anything, AFAIC.

  • Reply 20 of 46
    bloggerblogbloggerblog Posts: 1,820member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Chipsy View Post

     

    Personally I think that the display technology is ready for it, what isn't ready is the battery technology.


    The current LCD/LED display technology has too many problems for a watch, and I think the only display technology that can work for a practical watch is eInk which has it's own performance issues too.

     

    LCD, OLED, LED problems:

    - The display is too thick. Sapphire may help but not by much.

    - You cannot see your watch when wearing polarized glasses or sunglasses. (Try it with an iPhone in landscape)

    - The display will have too much glare in sunlight, the backlight cannot overpower daylight.

    - The displays always has the backlight blasting behind the polarizing pixel layer, making black annoyingly visible in dark rooms, such as a movie theatre or a bedroom. The solution would be to touch the screen to activate the device, which in my mind, defeats the purpose of wearing a watch.

    - The display consumes too much power.

    - The display has a limited shapes. Although Motorola produced images of a round watch, it was computer generated and not an actual device. A solution might be to pick up the circuitry to the pixels from the middle axis of the device, that would have to be seen if it can be done.

     

    eInk solves most of the problems because it's visible in daylight, does not use a polarizing layer, and does not continuously produce light. Also it can be manufactured really thin, and it consumes close to nothing in power. But unfortunately, the refresh rate is agonizingly slow, and color is nowhere near appealing.

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