Apple has a lab dedicated to sports and health in which Apple employees work out under close supervision using medical monitoring equipment, Tim Bajarin writes in Time, citing a personal visit to the facility as well as conversations with Apple executives.
In this lab, running 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, Apple asks employees of all fitness levels to do various exercises and collects data while they do it. The goal: improving the Apple Watch and its health-related sensors, such as its optical heart rate monitor.
The lab even has chambers that can simulate temperature or weather conditions, to better fine-tune the Watch’s sensors. The lab is staffed by professional nurses, which explains why Apple has been hiring them lately.
Apparently, Apple’s goal with the watch is not fashion or connectivity, but health specifically, and the company draws inspiration from the legacy of its late CEO Steve Jobs’ battle with pancreatic cancer. Bajarin writes:
I recently spent time with Apple executives involved with the Watch. I asked them to explain the real motivation for creating the device. Although Apple has made fashion and design a key cornerstone of its existence, it turns out that this was not at the heart of why they created this product.
The late Apple CEO Steve Jobs developed pancreatic cancer in 2004. He then spent a great deal of time with doctors and the healthcare system until his death in 2011. While that personal health journey had a great impact on Jobs personally, it turns out that it affected Apple’s top management, too. During this time, Jobs discovered how disjointed the healthcare system can be. He took on the task of trying to bring some digital order to various aspects of the healthcare system, especially the connection between patients, their data, and their healthcare providers.
Although the Apple Watch has been seen as a flop by some industry observers, there’s a growing amount of evidence that the company is playing the long game with the gadget — a game that eventually turns it into a key tool for users to monitor not only their fitness, but their health as well.
Before the Apple Watch was announced, Apple representatives visited the Food and Drug Administration, for example.
Earlier this year, Apple introduced CareKit, a series of tools that make it easier for developers to build apps that allow patients to monitor their conditions and share data gleaned from sensors with healthcare professionals. That project followed from ResearchKit, which has already enabled several large studies using Apple products that were not possible before.
And it’s clear that Apple is putting a lot of emphasis on health, in particular. Recently, it hired Nest’s former head of technology to work on health projects. Apple’s growing stable of health experts report to Jeff Williams, CEO Tim Cook’s top lieutenant, and one of the most powerful figures within the company.