Apple looking at earphones equipped with fitness and health tracker

In an apparent bid to haul in an increased share of the multi-billion-dollar wearable fitness monitor market, Apple has filed an application to patent earphones equipped with a health- and fitness-tracking device.

The market for wearable fitness devices is expected to hit an annual $12 billion by 2022, according to market intelligence firm Markets and Markets.

And while the Apple Watch has some health- and fitness-monitoring functions, its use has not become widespread.

Now, the Cupertino company is seeking a patent for a setup that combines earphones with a health-and-fitness monitor built in, or attached. The device would monitor user activity during exercise or sports, and also collect biometric data such as body temperature, perspiration level and heart rate, according to a patent application filed Sept. 22 and made public Jan. 12 by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The technology could also allow the user to control their device with head movements, the application said.

For the user, such a device could mean one less gadget to deal with, the application suggested. “Assuming the user is otherwise using the hearing device, such as to provide audio output by a portable media player, the user gains monitoring capabilities without requiring the user to wear or carry an additional article,” the application said.

Apple envisions several options for design. The monitoring device could be integrated with the earphones. Or it could be attached to them, and removable. Or put into a housing attached to an earphones cord. Or attached to the user’s clothing.

The application makes specific reference to the technology being suitable for either wired or wireless earphones, which would make it a fit for Apple’s new wireless “Airpods” earbuds.

A user could also control the device via the monitor, but by moving the head rather than touching the device or monitor, according to the application.

Applying for a patent does not necessarily mean developing a real product, so only time will tell if this technology makes it to market.


Image: Drawing of an Apple earphone equipped with a health-and-fitness tracker (U.S. Patent and Trademark Office) 



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