Apple Patents Fitness Tracking Earphones

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted Apple a patent on Tuesday for headphones that offer another hint into the company's plans for wearable fitness products. The patent describes headphones that include sensors to track biometric data such as body temperature, heart rate, and motion, which fits nicely with the company's recent medical, health and fitness-related hiring spree.

Apple patents fitness tracking headphonesApple patents fitness tracking headphones

The headphones in Apple's patent can fit over or in a user's ears, and the embedded sensors transmit the data they collect back to iOS devices such as the iPhone via Bluetooth or wired connections.

Apple has been rumored for some time to be working on a wrist top device with fitness tracking features, and CEO Tim Cook has even said his company has an "intense interest" in wearable technology. The company has also been hiring fitness and health experts for the past couple years who have expertise in non-invasive biometric monitoring.

The list of high caliber experts now on Apple's payroll includes Ravi Narasimhan who serverd as vice president of research at Vital Connect, Nancy Dougherty who was in charge of hardware at the transdermal medicin delivery company Sano, Ueyn Block who was director of optics and systems engineering at C8 MediSensors, Todd Whitehurst who worked at Senseonics as vice president of product development, and Dr. Michael O'Reilly who was the Chief Medical Officer as Masimo Corporation.

Apple has also hired Jay Blahnik who helped Nike develop the FuelBand fitness tracker, and Nike R&D man and high tech fabric design expert Ben Shaffer.

Apple isn't the only company looking at the possibility of sticking fitness tracking sensors in our ears. A new Kickstarter project called The Dash is planning on doing just that before the end of the year now that it has far exceeded its funding goals. The Dash uses bone transduction instead of a traditional microphone for better voice quality, Bluetooth instead of wires for communicating with your smartphone, and has several sensors built in to track steps taken, heart rate, blood oxygen levels, and more.

A patent doesn't necessarily mean a shipping product is on the way, but in this case it does help support the idea that Apple is serious about moving into fitness and health tracking. That could simply mean accessories like sensor-filled headphones that talk with our iPhones, or it could mean new wearable devices are on the way.

Considering the company's recent hires, plus Tim Cook's statements, it's looking more and more likely that Apple is getting ready to disrupt the fitness tracking and wearable tech market.

[Thanks to TechCrunch for the heads up]

[Some image elements courtesy Shutterstock]