Apple’s new smartwatch, though, is a different thing altogether. Two new features are placing the device in a completely different league. Those are the fall detection system and the ECG (EKG) sensor and application. These two features alone moves the smartwatch squarely into the predictive medicine realm.
Until now, most wearables have been focusing on fitness applications. They record your heartbeat, your blood oxygen, number of steps, etc. It all revolves around tracking and displaying. Such devices have been the foundation of the Quantify Self
(QS) movement. Predictive medicine
though is a much more complex challenge. While Quantify Self is about tracking, predictive medicine aims to predict when a user is getting sick
. For years, being able to predict an illness before it happens has been the Holy Grail of many startups
The reason why it’s so challenging is that it requires a confluence of three elements. You need a multi-sensory device, a continuous stream of sensory data and complex predictive algorithms and models. Each one of these is already hard on its own. The need for all three turns it into a significant challenge.
The new Apple Watch is a big step towards that goal. The Series 4 delivers on two of these premises. It creates a real-time, always-on health stream data that informs a complex prediction model on top.
What’s Next: The device isn’t there yet though. While Apple has achieved a critical milestone, they still need to ramp up the multi-sensory approach. I expect them to cramp other sensors within the smartwatch. Once they’ve saturated the device’s surface, they’ll expand to the periphery with novel add-ons. The new sensory inputs will translate into better predictive capabilities and improved algorithms.