Apple Patents A Smarter, More Accurate Wrist-Based Activity Tracker

Apple has applied for a patent for an improved wearable pedometer design, according to a new filing published by the USPTO today (via AppleInsider). The filing describes a way to vastly improve accuracy on wearable step counters, by determining where a user is wearing it and adjusting the way it analyzes movement as a result.

The patent specifically details automatic detection of when it’s on a person’s wrist, and when a person starts to run, making it less susceptible to false positives caused by arm motion. The device could also determine when it’s being worn on a person’s trunk, at or near the waist, and instead of using arm motion to determine movement, would rely on the changes in gravity that occur when a person pushes off for a step vs. when they’re at rest.

Apple’s filing goes into a lot of technical detail, but the key takeaway is that this is tech we could easily see integrated into a wearable device like an iWatch, or a standalone accessory more akin to a Jawbone UP or Fitbit. It’s interesting to think that Apple might be considering both avenues, especially given that rival Samsung has just introduced a series of wearable devices including the Gear Fit, and others like LG and Sony are introducing dedicated activity trackers.

Recent filings coming out of Apple’s R&D department all seem to point towards a steep ramp up in wearable tech, focused mainly on a smartwatch. We’ve seen Bluetooth LE, induction charging, and bezel touch control, for instance, and the company has also been hiring people with expertise related to activity tracking and health tech. This new patent shows that it’s very serious about these efforts, and seeking to improve considerably on what’s available out there now from early entrants in the wearables market, which is good news for those hoping for something category-defining in an Apple smartwatch.