Apple patent application hints at future health-related plans

The USPTO publishes a patent application from the iPhone maker that shows a new twist on step tracking.

Nike's FuelBand also features pedometer functionality.
Nike's FuelBand also features pedometer functionality. Roger Cheng/CNET

The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has published a new patent application from Apple focused on fitness.

Dubbed "Wrist Pedometer Step Detection," the patent application describes "optimizations for detecting steps" for when a pedometer is worn on the wrist. AppleInsider earlier reported on the patent.

Although pedometers are nothing new, Apple's method for detecting steps is actually somewhat sophisticated. The technology analyzes "peak-to-peak threshold" to determine when a person takes a step. Based on the time elapsed between those thresholds, it can infer when another step was taken, according to the patent application. The technology can also automatically determine whether the pedometer is being worn on the wrist.

Rumors have been swirling, suggesting Apple is at work on health-related products and could be announcing new devices and software this year. As one might expect, given Apple's history, the company hasn't shared any plans on that. Still, this latest patent adds a bit more credence to those rumors and suggests Apple might soon jump into the health fray.

If and when that happens, Apple will be met with serious competition. Several companies have already developed wrist-worn devices that can track your steps, including the Nike Fuelband, the Fitbit Force, and the upcoming Samsung Gear Fit.

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