Apple made headlines yesterday when it announced several new product launches, namely the iPhone 6 and it’s long-rumored foray into the wearable device market, the Apple Watch. But while neither device was created specifically for healthcare use, it’s the latter that carries vast implications for senior care.
The market for healthcare technology is rife with devices that record and monitor physical activity, vital signs, among other health-related metrics. And now it appears that Apple is joining the club, albeit on the outskirts, with the creation of the Apple Watch.
The device incorporates several technologies and functions that play into the healthcare arena.
For one, the watch has a digital touch feature that provides a new way to connect intimately with others, whether it’s getting another watch-user’s attention with a simple tap on the device or even sharing something as personal as a heartbeat, said Jony Ive, Apple’s senior vice president of design.
“These are subtle ways to communicate that technology often inhibits rather than enables,” he said during a video detailing the watch’s complete features.
At the heart of the watch is a chip that integrates many subsystems the technology encompasses into one compact module, which essentially minimizes an entire computer system onto a single chip, Ive added.
Adding to this technology, the watch’s zirconia back contains four lenses crafted from crystal sapphire that, along with infrared invisible light LEDs and photo sensors, are able to detect the wearer’s pulse rate.
Designed particularly with fitness and exercise in mind, these components work in tandem with a built-in gyroscope and accelerometer that help provide a comprehensive picture of an individual’s physical activity using GPS location services and Wi-Fi from an iPhone.
The device also makes calling family and friends easy. The watch senses when its wearer is raising his or her wrist, upon which it activates the display screen. Users can then push a button located on the side of the device that instantly brings up the individual’s contacts, enabling them to connect with them, either via text or standard call, in seconds, Ive said.
Though the device has yet to be put into the circumstantial application, for example, in the event of an emergency such as a fall, contacting help in a matter of seconds, in theory, is the premise of all personal emergency response systems out there today.
Another aspect where Apple taps into the essence of senior care lies in the watch’s robust customization.
The company has designed a variety of watch “faces,” or displays, and bands to choose from that are easily interchangeable. Users can choose from a range of styles, including a classic leather buckle design, a stainless steel link bracelet, a loop that comes in a soft, quilted leather, or for the sporty types, a chemical- and sweat-resistant sport band made from a durable high-performance elsatic material.
“We know that wearing something all day and everyday becomes as much about personal preference and self-expression as functionality,” Ive said.
It’s no secret that what today’s senior resident wants in terms of housing and services won’t be the same as the future senior living consumer’s, and providers have largely recognized this shift. Many have already begun to implement tailor-made features into their communities, whether it’s designing more personlized resident programming, or greater customization in living arrangements and dining services.
Though it isn’t targeting seniors specifically, the need to personalize and self-express is an inherent human desire, and one that Apple plans to capitalize upon.
“Creating beautiful objects that are as simple and pure as they are functional, well that’s always been our goal at Apple,” said Ive. “I think we’re now at a compelling beginning of actually designing technology to be worn, to be truly personal.”
Written by Jason Oliva