Future iPhones may double as health data-gathering devices

Apple has been granted a patent (number 9,723,997) for an electronic device (that would almost certainly be the iPhone) — that “computes health data.”

In the patent filing, Apple says that it would be beneficial for a user to have information about his or her health data, including fitness data and wellness data. For example, health data may indicate emergency conditions or to enable the user to maximize fitness or wellness activities. Traditionally, health data is provided to users by health care professionals. However, Apple says that it may be beneficial for users to have more access to health data — and the tech giant wants you to use its products for that purpose.

According to the patent, the electronic device — which I’ll simply refer to as the iPhone from now on in this report — includes a camera, an ambient light sensor, and a proximity sensor. The smartphone uses one or more of the camera and the proximity sensor to emit light into a body part of a user touching a surface of the electronic device and one or more of the camera, the ambient light sensor, and the proximity sensor to receive at least part of the emitted light reflected by the body part of the user. 

The iPhone is able to compute health data of the user based upon sensor data regarding the received light. In some implementations, the electronic device may also include one or more electrical contacts that contact one or more body parts of the user. In such implementations, the health data may be further computed based on the an electrical measurement obtained using the electrical contact.

The health data may include one or more of a variety of different wellness, fitness, and/or other parameters relating to the health of a user. For example, in various implementations the health data may include: a blood pressure index, a blood hydration, a body fat content, an oxygen saturation, a pulse rate, a perfusion index, an electrocardiogram, a photoplethysmogram, and/or any other such health data. In some implementations, the electronic device may provide the computed health data to the user. 

Of course, Apple files for — and is granted — lots of patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Many are for inventions that never see the light of day. However, you never can tell which ones will materialize in a real product.