Reuters is out today with a story headlined “Apple on medical tech hiring spree, a possible hint of iWatch plans.” The article is mostly a summary of nearly a year’s worth of our reporting here at 9to5Mac, but does add some fresh 3rd party analysis into Apple’s impact on the biomedical field. Starting from the beginning of the reporting’s details:

Reuters, today: 

Apple Inc is building a team of senior medical technology executives, raising hackles in the biotechnology community and offering a hint of what the iPhone maker may be planning for its widely expected iWatch and other wearable technology.

 iWatch’s novelty emerges as Apple taps sensor and fitness experts:

Apple has begun assembling a team of hardware and software engineering, medical sensor, manufacturing, and fitness experts, indicating the company is moving forward with a project to build a fitness-oriented, sensor-laden wearable computer, according to our sources.

Going point-by-point:

Screen Shot 2014-05-05 at 7.15.42 AM

Next, Reuters reports on a series of hires by Apple over the past year. The report says Apple has hired several people from companies such as Masimo, Vital Connect, Senseonics, and Sano Intelligence:

A LinkedIn search shows Masimo chief medical officer Michael O’Reilly; Cercacor chief technology officer Marcelo Lamego; and Vital Connect’s Ravi Narasimhan, vice president of biosensor technology, and Nima Ferdosi, an embedded sensors expert, are among those who have moved over to the Cupertino company.

Apple’s hiring of O’Reilly was first reported back in January along with the hiring of Narasimhan. The hirings of Lamego and Ferdosi were noted in February. Reuters, though, adds the name Alexander Chan (another former Vital Connect staffer) to the mix.

Screen Shot 2014-05-05 at 7.14.21 AM

Next, Reuters profiles the hires of Todd Whitehurst and Nancy Dougherty:

Apple has also hired hardware experts Nancy Dougherty, formerly of wearable sensor company Sano Intelligence, and Todd Whitehurst, vice president of product at Senseonics Inc, a glucose monitoring product, according to their LinkedIn profiles.

Here’s us on Whitehurst’s hiring back in July of 2013:

Apple has also poached at least one high-profile employee from Senseonics, a firm that also specializes in sensors to monitor human substances, to work on biometric sensors for wearables. Vice President of Product Development, Dr. Todd Whitehurst, departed for Apple at the beginning of this month, the Maryland-based company confirmed to us during a phone call.

And our report on Dougherty from January of 2014:

Apple has hired away Nancy Dougherty from startup Sano Intelligence and Ravi Narasimhan from general medical devices firm Vital Connect. In her former job, Dougherty was in charge of hardware development. Narasimhan was the Vice President of Research and Development at his previous employer. Dougherty’s work at Sano Intelligence is incredibly interesting in light of Apple’s work on wearable devices, and it seems likely that she will bring this expertise from Sano over to Apple.

DivyaNag

Reuters also notes the hire of Divya Nag, a Stanford researcher:

And most recently, Divya Nag, founder of StartX Med, a Stanford-affiliated startup accelerator, joined an Apple research and development team two weeks ago to focus on an unspecified healthcare product, two people familiar with the matter say. Nag did not respond to requests for comment.

Here’s us on Nag’s hire (three weeks ago):

Apple has added Divya Nag, a rising star in the medical device community, to its in-house medical technology team, according to sources with knowledge of the hire. Nag made her entry into the medical technology world earlier this decade by co-founding Stem Cell Theranostics, a company that focuses on technologies for testing new medicines for the market and how the drugs will affect patients. Nag also participated in the Stanford-based StartX, an “accelerator” for medical technology-focused startups. Nag was just recently recognized for her many accomplishments in the medical and science fields with the Forbes’ annual 30 Under 30 award.

Reuters also reports that Apple’s medical space plans go beyond hardware:

One mobile health executive, who asked not to be named, told Reuters he recently sat down with an Apple executive from the iWatch team. He said the company has aspirations beyond wearable devices, and is considering a full health and fitness services platform modeled on its apps store. Apple spokesperson Steve Dowling declined to comment on the company’s health-tech plans or its recent hires. The med-tech community is betting on Apple to develop the apps-store style platform so startups can develop their own software and hardware mobile medical applications.

healthbook-book

This said platform is the Healthbook service that we reported on in January and revealed in screenshots in March:

Seven years out from the original iPhone’s introduction, and four years past the iPad’s launch, Apple has found its next market ripe for reinvention: the mobile healthcare and fitness-tracking industry. Apple’s interest in healthcare and fitness tracking will be displayed in an iOS application codenamed Healthbook. I first wrote about Apple’s plans for Healthbook in January, and multiple sources working directly on the initiative’s development have since provided new details and images of Healthbook that provide a clearer view of Apple’s plans for dramatically transforming the mobile healthcare and fitness-tracking space…

The article does, however, add some new information. The report makes the important point that Apple has been hiring people with vast knowledge of trade secrets for various companies, and that this could potentially pose problems for Apple, these employees, and the former employers of Apple hires:

“Some of the talent (Apple recruited) has access to deep wells of trade secrets and information,” said Joe Kiani, chief executive officer of medical device firm Masimo Corp, who lost his chief medical officer to Apple in mid-2013. Kiani said that Apple was offering sizeable salaries with little indication of what researchers would be doing. “They are just buying people,” he said. “I just hope Apple is not doing what we’re doing.”

It does not appear that any former employers have made legal moves against recent Apple hires, but that would not be unprecedented. IBM sued former executive Mark Papermaster upon his departure to Apple, and a Blackberry executive is currently amid a lawsuit to join Apple as a vice president in its software engineering group. It’s worth reading the Reuters article for more of that insight and reporting.

Some other recent and pertinent Apple hires not profiled today include fitness expert Jay Blahnik, former fashion designer Paul Deneve, former Nike designer Ben Shaffer, former Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch, sleep scientist Roy Raymann, and optical engineer Ueyn Block. Our sources are also saying that Apple has been exploring potential acquisitions of various medical device companies in recent months, including full-fledged medical product firms that are not smartphone/wearable device focused. So, stay tuned for more on that and various other details as the rumored fall timeframe for the iWatch’s debut approaches.

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16 Responses to “Reuters summarizes a year’s worth of our Apple iWatch, Healthbook, & medical hires reporting, adds fresh insight”

  1. I’m extremely excited for all of this. Health tech is absolutely the future.

  2. rogifan says:

    And people still think Apple is building a smart watch like the Moto 360. Just remember when Jony Ive was asked about the so-called “iWatch” he called it a “game of chess”. I get this feeling Apple is playing chess while everyone trying to figure out what they’re doing are playing checkers.

    • rahhbriley says:

      I like this analogy!

      Ya I think many of us, myself included, have potentially underestimated the stake Apple is trying to take in health. This may not be a hobby at all, not just an accessory. They may want to really own the “smart body.”

      This thought is waaaay out there, but their apparent focus on health for the foreseeable future, could have a very interesting implication a decade or few down the line with organic/bio computing.

      • Of COURSE it isn’t an accessory. A category isn’t an accessory, it’s a device that has meaningful functionality on it’s own. I knew what the iWatch would be aimed at when they first mentioned biosensors, not to brag, but I don’t know how others didn’t realize this…

    • irelandjnr says:

      The same Moto 360 that isn’t a product right now?

  3. Apple is spending huge amount of resources hiring and keeping these top people, breaking their backs to create the next wonderful product in the field. Yet some companies are out there doing little or nothing but just waiting for Apple to release that new product. In less than 200 days, they would have changed course and bring out something mimicking what Apple has spent millions of dollars and not to mention huge amount of time on to introduce to the market. If Apple dares to complains, they will moan that Apple loves litigation, is not innovative and is just trying to stifle the competition.

    As the court slowly moves through the process of resolution, even some sympathetic to Apple would be wondering whether it is not wise to drop the whole compliant and move on to the next big thing. Is it any wonder that some of us are wondering whether it is worth it for Apple to spend this amount of resources on bringing new stuff to the market, where we just have a bunch of copycats waiting on their backsides doing nothing but ready to pounce and reap where they did not sow?

  4. Interesting things on the horizon. Whatever it is called, it might revolutionize and redefine this area.

  5. “It does not appear that any former employers have made legal moves against recent Apple hires …”

    That is kind of hard to do when nobody outside of Apple knows what they are doing. What would the lawsuit claim, “We are suing Apple because we are afraid that they might do something wrong.” Until Apple’s health related product is released there can’t be any suits.

    That doesn’t mean that many companies in the health tech industry won’t be going over any Apple product with a fine tooth comb and a broad definition of their IP looking for a way to get some of Apple’s money. Deservedly, which some might be, or not, which most will be.

  6. iPadCary says:

    So Apple’s looking to commoditize & subsequently conquer the mobile medtek industry the way it did the mobile entertainment industry.
    GENIUS!!!

    But, as noted in the above comments, they headhunted a lot of bigwigs with TONS of what is presumably überproprietary data.
    How can Apple leverage into iBand what’s inside these guys’ collective noggins without somehow encroaching into copyright?

    Ahhh, how do I know? I’m just a “Apple Fanboi™” schmucko ….

  7. Jason Piebes says:

    I’m sure Ben Lovejoy still thinks Apple is designing a fashionable ‘watch’ that will cost $300+…

  8. What I take from his is one thing…Apple like to solve BIG problems.

    Not just “Oh let me use Google Now on my watch”. Android Wear is going to be a complete joke compared to whatever Apple is working on.

    I believe Apple has one mission. Save ives. I wouldn’t be surprised if Steve Jobs death motivated them even further to enter the medical space. Numerous lines in the biography talk about how much he hated the design of all the medical devices.

    • darrenoia says:

      I had the same thought re: all of this medical attention being a kind of corporate reaction or almost belated salute to their fallen leader.

      That said, I will be interested to see whether this kind of thing really makes a splash in the marketplace. I suppose Apple’s high-end crowd is more health-conscious than the average, but it still seems like a very niche market to me. Are there really enough people who care about tracking their O2 saturation, etc., to make this iWatch or iBand or whatever a success?

      • Jason Piebes says:

        Someone with asthma or sleep apnea certainly would be interested in their current O2 saturation. A lab test at the doctor’s office could run $50 – $200 to find out the same information. Cost savings….

        The medical hardware industry is one massive ball of greedy corrupt thieves. Its a big chunk of the healthcare problem that creates unnecessary cost for everyone. Take it out of the hands of the theives and sell these devices at a reasonable market value.

        The free market again out-innovates the government.