Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Apple adds health features to latest Watch

Steve Rogerson
September 17, 2019

Apple introduced its latest watch this month with features including period tracking, a noise app and activity trends. The tech giant also announced three medical studies covering women’s health, hearing, and heart and movement.
The Apple Watch Series 5 debuts an always-on retina display that never sleeps, so it’s easy to see the time and other important information, without raising or tapping the display. New location features, from a built-in compass to current elevation, help users navigate their day, while international emergency calling lets wearers call emergency services directly from Apple Watch in more than 150 countries, even without an iPhone nearby.
Combined with the power of WatchOs 6, users are empowered to take charge of their health and fitness with features such as menstrual cycle tracking, noise app and activity trends.
“We’ve seen Apple Watch have a meaningful impact on our customers’ lives and we’re excited to deliver even more capabilities with Apple Watch Series 5 and WatchOs 6,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer. “The seamless integration of new hardware and software delivers an enhanced experience that makes it even easier to stay active and connected to the people and information users care about.”
Additional health and fitness features come with WatchOs 6, including the cycle tracking app, which gives women the ability to log important information related to their menstrual cycles, and see predicted timing for their next period and fertile windows.
The noise app helps users understand the ambient sound levels in environments such as concerts and sporting events that could negatively impact hearing, and activity trends on iPhone provides a long-term view of their activity patterns to help them understand their progress.
Apple also announced three medical studies, in partnership with academic and research institutions. The studies will be available on the new research app, which democratises how medical research is conducted by bringing together academic medical institutions, healthcare organisations and Apple products.
Participants will contribute to potential medical discoveries and help create the next generation of health products. The app will be available as a free download in the App Store later this year.
“With the Apple Heart Study, we found that we could positively impact medical research in ways that help patients today and that make contributions that will benefit future generations,” said Williams, “Today’s announcement carries our commitment to health even further by engaging with participants on a larger scale than ever before.”
The three studies are:

  • Women’s health study: In partnership with Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and the NIH’s National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), Apple has created a long-term study focused on menstrual cycles and gynaecological conditions. This study will inform screening and risk assessment of conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), infertility, osteoporosis, pregnancy and menopausal transition.
  • Heart and movement study: Apple is partnering with Brigham & Women’s Hospital and the American Heart Association on a study of how heart rate and mobility signals such as walking pace and flights of stairs climbed relate to hospitalisations, falls, heart health and quality of life to promote healthy movement and improved cardiovascular health.
  • Hearing study: Alongside the University of Michigan, Apple is examining factors that impact hearing health. The study will collect data over time to understand how everyday sound exposure can impact hearing. The study data will be shared with the World Health Organization as a contribution towards its Make Listening Safe initiative.
“Women make up half of the world’s population, yet even today there has been limited investment in studying their unique health needs,” said Michelle Williams, a reproductive epidemiologist and dean of the faculty at the Harvard TH Chan School. “This study, unprecedented in scope, will greatly advance our understanding of the biological and social determinants of women’s health, and lead to better health outcomes.”
Dale Sandler, chief of the NIEHS epidemiology branch, added: “This is an exciting opportunity for NIEHS researchers to contribute to the study design and use the resulting data to answer novel questions, not only important to women of reproductive age, but to women of all ages.”
And Calum MacRae, the vice chair at Brigham & Women’s Hospital, said: “We are excited to be working with all the study participants and with Apple to identify the features of complex human physiology that lead to different outcomes in wellness or chronic disease, and to use this information to empower individuals to maximise their own health.”
Apple’s support of the medical research community began with the introduction of ResearchKit and CareKit, which expanded the pace and scale at which healthcare could be studied and provided. Apple used ResearchKit to create the Apple Heart Study, which was the largest study of its kind and illustrated the impact virtual, large-scale studies can have on medical research by examining atrial fibrillation to provide validation for the irregular rhythm notification feature on Apple Watch.
“At the American Heart Association, we are a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives, and we are committed to educating and empowering people to be proactive in all areas of their heart health and general well-being,” said Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association. “We believe that emerging technology that seeks to provide deeper health insights offers great potential in getting us there. We are collaborating with Apple and Brigham & Women’s Hospital on the Apple heart and movement study to explore the correlation between a broad range of physical activities and a person’s overall heart health to ultimately understand risks and interventions to improve health.”
DuBois Bowman, dean of the University of Michigan School of Public Health, added: “We are excited about this unique opportunity to partner with Apple to determine how everyday activities affect our hearing. The information gleaned from this partnership will be critical for us to address the public health impact of various noise exposures on hearing loss in the USA.”
And Shelly Chadha, technical officer at the World Health Organization, said” “The World Health Organization is pleased to note the announcement of the Apple hearing study which will contribute towards our Make Listening Safe initiative by improving our understanding of users’ listening behaviour. With over a billion young people who could be at risk of hearing loss due to unsafe listening, WHO is addressing this challenge through raising awareness and setting new standards for safe listening. The knowledge gained through this study will contribute to future public health action in this field.”