Apple has been granted a patent by the USPTO today (via AppleInsider) that could fit in with its apparent plans to get into health and fitness tracking in a big way: the document describes a headphone system that builds in sensors to detect heart rate, temperature, perspiration and other info to track a user’s movements and activity levels.
The patent describes ways of integrating this monitoring system into both earbud and on-ear type headphone designs, with accelerometers and other sensors embedded in each. They could communicate data back to an attached iOS device via cord, or wirelessly using Bluetooth. Sensors might be housed either directly within the headphones themselves, or in a detachable component that can be removed when not in use. The patent also includes a description of a system for controlling playback via head movements using the headphone accelerometers, too.
While the patent was originally filed in 2008, the concept is much more practical in terms of being something we could see in real shipping product now. Just last week, we wrote about The Dash, a Kickstarter project that aims to put fitness sensors into headphones with a device shipping later this year. Breakthroughs in the miniaturization and availability of components have made this concept much more fiscally realistic at this stage.
Apple is reportedly moving into a greater focus on health and fitness with iOS 8, the upcoming version of its mobile OS. A previous report from 9to5Mac says that update could feature a new dedicated app called “Healthbook” that keeps track of a user’s vitals and activity data over time. Apple is also rumored to be working on a smartwatch, but if it were to integrate activity and health sensors into the headphones it ships with devices anyway, that would make it a lot easier to get users on board and engaged with the platform. On the other hand, it might lessen the appetite for any standalone tracker like an iWatch.
This is an older patent, and we haven’t heard much from the rumor mill about Apple working on such a solution, so don’t hold your breath for any kind of health tracking earbuds coming from Cupertino anytime soon. Still, it’s interesting to see yet another example of Apple’s interest in the health and fitness monitoring market, especially one that originated so early in the history of the trend.