Apple, who is notorious for keeping their products and development under wraps, have give us a sneak peek into their secret fitness lab. The purpose of the lab is to get data to be able to create better products. The predominant focus of the Apple Watch is health and fitness. This is the big drive for most people, so it’s important for Apple to improve the watch. There are some drawbacks I’ve noticed myself, but I’m not going to get into that today.
To date, Apple has logged more than 33,000 hours of biometric data using employees as “volunteers”. I think the term is “volun-told”. I mean, I can see people coming forward wanting to help with this information, but to call them volunteers is a stretch in my opinion. Especially since they’re actual employees. They may be volunteering for the program, but I suspect there is more to it. Maybe Apple is as cool of a place to work for as it seems, but I would bet that there are some incentives to participate. But I digress a bit. This amount of data is actually estimated to be the largest chunk of fitness data in the world. How they’re measuring that I’m not exactly sure, but it is kind of neat.
Jay Blahnik, Apple’s Director of Fitness has indicated “that the facility employs 13 physicians and exercise specialists, in addition to 29 nurses and medics. It’s also the largest purchaser of 50 metabolic carts, which are used to track the oxygen consumption of Apple engineers, managers, and even security guards as they perform various kinds physical activities– including cycling, swimming in the lab’s endless pool, rowing, running, and yoga. Sometimes, all they do is sit around in the gym, which also yields helpful fitness insights.” Which is actually an incredible amount of data.
Another interesting thing that Blahnik mentions is what kind of information they study. Some of which might include how you’re burning calories just when you’re sitting. Or standing. This is the kind of data that they need in order to be able to improve the watch. I think this is particularly fascinating as I have a hard time understanding how my watch knows. If I’m sitting at my desk all day, for example, how does it know I’m burning calories? How am I actually burning calories when I’m not moving? I have been boxing for the last six months. What I would be interested in understanding is whether or not my watch knows when I’m not boxing. You hit a bag (or a person) for three minutes, and then you take a thirty second break. How does it know these things? Or does it?
I like the fact that Apple is so dedicated to it’s product that it’s putting in a lot of effort to improve it. In today’s world, we want what we want and how we want it. We want products and services on our own terms. While Apple doesn’t have a large competitor right now, that doesn’t mean it won’t. And it needs to be prepared for that. Both as a way to keep existing customers and as a way to get new ones. Apple announced that they were improving the watch during WWDC, so I suspect some of this data will be used for that as well. I actually am looking forward to the day when I can get a new watch, and when the new features are available.