While Apple Inc.'s (AAPL) smartwatch already has optical sensing capabilities for detecting heart rate and other health conditions, the company is beefing up a team to explore making its own health-centered chips, according to CNBC. According to reports, the Cupertino, California-based device maker has a dedicated team working on a custom processor specifically focused on health care monitoring. The building of a health care chip is being explored by Apple to better interpretate health information collected from various sensors integrated into Apple devices.
A series of job openings posted over the last two months on Apple's recruitment portal provide sufficient hints about the development. A job description that mentions requirement for “sensor ASIC architects to help develop ASICs for new sensors and sensing systems for future Apple products,” or the one that lists requirement for hiring an engineer who can "help develop health, wellness, and fitness sensors" or an earlier one mentioning “optical sensors” provide enough evidence of Apple’s increasing focus on build health-related chips that can work based on sensing systems.
Improved Efficiency From In-House Chips
Building in-house chips and electronic modules allows several benefits. It makes way for the addition of customized features, greater control and protection of intellectual property rights for new offerings, freedom from dependence on outside suppliers and improved efficiency of the hardware modules. For instance, specialized chips can process the data specifically meant for a particular stream, like measuring distance traveled or heartbeats. Such customized processors keep the main processor free for the core work of device management and other necessary functions, delivering better performance from the device and reducing power consumption.
Apple already has a variety of health-tracking features that include allowing the device users to track their cardiac health, exercise and quality of sleep. Some of these features are offered through use of components supplied by partner firms or through acquisitions like that of Beddit last year. (See also: Apple Has Acquired a Company That Monitors Sleep.)
CNBC further cites earlier reports of Apple working on continuous and non-invasive blood-sugar monitoring, and it says the company plans to conduct a study using Apple Watch to asses if the device can precisely check heart's rhythm to interpret early signs of any potential medical abnormalities.
Tech Giants Focus on Custom Chips
Customized chips have been a focus area for leading technology companies in recent times. Last month, social media giant Facebook Inc. (FB) was reportedly building its own processors for improved data processing, virtual reality and artificial intelligence. (See also: Facebook Is Reportedly Building its Own Chip.)
Last year, Alphabet Inc.’s Google (GOOGL) unveiled customized processor for hardware security for its cloud computing division, and Amazon.com Inc (AMZN) is also developing chips for Alexa. (See also: Google Unveils Custom Hardware Chip for Cloud.)
Earlier this year, there were reports of Apple planning to use its own chips in Macbooks from 2020. (See also: Apple Undercuts Intel Processor's Role In Next MacBook.)