Another indication of Apple’s interest in the fitness and health monitoring field is a patent granted on Tuesday by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The patent describes a biometric headphone system that can sense a variety of body functions, including temperature, heart rate, and perspiration levels.
Claiming priority over a provisional patent application filed for in 2007, Apple’s U.S. Patent No. 8,655,004 for a “Sports monitoring system for headphones, earbuds and/or headsets” proves the company has been investigating integrated activity monitors for at least six years.
The patent shows the fitness monitoring system encased in a set of headphones, which is a common object worn by users while exercising. The embedded sensor can then pickup health metrics, including: temperature, perspiration and heart rate data.
An accelerometer is also included in some instances, in order to collect accurate movement data. The sensor can be housed in the upper or lower portions of an earbud.
The accelerometer could also be used in a novel means of hands-free navigation involving head gestures, as described in the patent. Users could change music tracks, or adjust volume via head movements. Accidental activation could possibly be prevented with some type of procedure such as a button press.
Apple notes the headphone unit may be wired or wireless, with the later implementation being via Bluetooth.
Apple’s sports monitoring headphone patent was first filed for in 2008 and lists Christopher Prest and Quin C. Hoellwarth as its inventors.