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Apple’s Standalone Health Device Takes Shape in a New Patent

August 11, 2016, 3:18 PM UTC
Apple Watch fitness milanese loop band
The Apple Watch.
Courtesy: Apple

Apple is rumored to be working on an all-new device that would track your health, and now a patent application has surfaced that lends some credibility to that report.

The tech giant (AAPL) has filed for a patent on a wearable device that would be capable of accurately measuring electrocardiographic information, ensuring those measurements are correct across different areas of the body. The device could be worn as a wristband, a ring, or placed somewhere else on the body, and it could equip healthcare providers with accurate electrocardiographic readings.

The Apple patent application was earlier discovered by Patently Apple.

Although a patent application is by no means a smoking gun that Apple will release such a product, its timing is interesting, if nothing else.

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Earlier this week, the Economic Daily News cited sources who said Apple was planning on launching an all-new device aimed squarely at the healthcare market. Those sources said that the device would be a wearable, launch next year, and focus on sophisticated features that healthcare providers might be seeking. The site’s sources even said Apple was already in talks with companies like Foxconn to start the manufacturing process.

At the time, the report was met with skepticism. Over the last few years, Apple has made clear that it has an interest in expanding its role in the healthcare industry. But in recent months, Apple CEO Tim Cook has suggested those efforts will be focused on expanding the health-tracking features in his company’s currently available wearable, Apple Watch.

It’s been believed since then that Apple Watch would play the central role in Apple’s ongoing healthcare efforts and expand upon the features it already offers, including the ability to track a person’s pulse and activity.

However, the Economic Daily News sources said Apple’s new device would be a healthcare—not a consumer-first—product with advanced features for medical providers. Apple Watch is likely to remain a consumer-first product, despite featuring more health-related features in the coming years.

Reading Apple’s patent suggests there might be some legitimacy to the earlier report. The patent application is technical in nature, focusing on how doctors and nurses could use the wearable to analyze the heart.

It’s impossible to know for sure what the notoriously secretive Apple has planned. Like countless other technology companies, Apple files patents for a wide range of products that might never launch, and it’s possible this technology will fall into that heap. It’s also possible that Apple integrates the technology’s features into Apple Watch.

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Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.