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As part of Apple’s continuing push into revolutionizing personal health and fitness, it looks like the company could soon begin selling actual health accessories designed to work with the Apple Watch, iPhone, and HealthKit.
A new job listing, first spotted by MyHealthyApple, pretty much comes right out and admits that Apple is looking to develop “Apple-branded Health Hardware products,” with the listing looking for an Engineering Project Manager who would lead the initiative.
While Apple has been building an extensive team of doctors and engineers for its health technologies group over the years, most of these have been focused on research and development of software technologies that power the Apple Watch and the Health app within the iOS ecosystem. This latest job posting, however, is the first indication we’ve had that Apple’s health ambitions may indeed be going beyond the software realm.
To be clear, there are already a wide variety of health hardware devices that tie into Apple’s HealthKit ecosystem, from scales to blood pressure monitors and sleep tracking devices, but almost universally, these third-party accessories require you to use their apps, which are also often tied into proprietary cloud services.
By contrast, if Apple were to create its own series of health monitoring accessories, these would presumably tie directly into HealthKit, with no additional apps required, allowing the whole process to work more seamlessly, and — most importantly to Apple — protecting user privacy to a level that third-party solutions don’t necessarily guarantee.
Although Apple acquired sleep-tracking company Beddit a few years ago, it hasn’t yet done much with the technology, and in fact, the Beddit sleep monitor remained on sale under its own brand. However, it would be very uncharacteristic for Apple to acquire a company like Beddit without having much bigger plans in mind, and not only was Beddit’s expertise likely key in bringing sleep tracking to watchOS 7 this year, but there have been rumours that Apple could even be working on a smart mattress.
One of the most interesting aspects of this job listing, however, isn’t just that Apple is clearly looking to produce its own health hardware products, but the fact that it may have at least one product at a fairly advanced stage of development.
Based on the description, the Engineering Project Manager (EPM) position isn’t primarily about research and development, but rather appears to be intended to drive one or more actual health hardware products into actual factory production in the near future.
For example, the job listing notes that, “The EPM is also the key interface to the suppliers, driving build readiness at the factory and managing the build itself. Success is defined in terms of the quality and timeliness of the pre-production builds and the start of mass production.”
It also suggests that the successful hire will need to interact with external resources for aspects like marketing and packaging, along with safety, reliability, and component engineering, along with maintaining project schedules, and meeting “very tight cost and quality goals.”
The new EPM will also be required to “Travel up to 20% to support manufacturing builds,” and the same run-on sentence in the listing adds that “Chinese Language skills are a plus,” making it fairly obvious where the travel destination will be.
What Could Be Coming
Not surprisingly, the job listing offers absolutely no clues as to exactly what the nature of these health hardware products would be, which leaves us guessing whether Apple is working on something really innovative or simply plans to compete with other third-party health products by offering its own solutions.
It does seem apparent that these will be products that are specifically focused on health, however, rather than simply health-related features in other mainstream Apple products like the Apple Watch and AirPods. While Apple’s health technologies team are undoubtedly a key part of the development of these products, they definitely wouldn’t be the group responsible for driving their manufacturing and production.
If Apple is simply going for the low-hanging fruit with its first products, the most likely entries would be common consumer health accessories like scales and blood pressure monitors — all things that are already available but leave lots of room for improvement and even tighter and more privacy-focused integration.
Although it sounds like Apple is working on more of a traditional health product than a fitness product here, we also can’t rule out that it may be looking at something that could tie more tightly into its Apple Fitness+ service in some way, although there have also been reports of an Apple Health+ service on the horizon.
Then of course there are the bigger moonshot products, like the aforementioned smart mattress, but this feels like an unlikely way for Apple to make its first foray into actual health hardware accessories, and our gut feeling is that Apple is much more likely to start small and establish its brand with a series of well-designed and intuitive accessories that everybody needs, saving the bigger and better things for once it’s already become a household name in health products.