Is Apple’s Latest Mystery Hire for the iWatch Team?


Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has made yet another hire that suggests that the iPhone maker is developing a new wearable tech product with health-monitoring features. According to MobiHealthNews via Apple Insider, Apple has hired Michael O’Reilly, the former executive vice president for medical affairs and chief medical officer of Masimo Corporation (NASDAQ:MASI). Although O’Reilly’s LinkedIn profile page does not yet list his new position at Apple, Masimo told MacRumors that it “could not dispute” the MobiHealthNews report. O’Reilly’s LinkedIn page lists his field of expertise as “Monitoring and Information Technology.”

As noted by MobiHealthNews, Masimo recently launched the iSpO2, an iPhone-enabled pulse oximeter. Pulse oximeters are devices that monitor blood oxygen levels through non-invasive means. As seen in the image above, the iSPO2 clips to a user’s fingertip and displays their blood oxygen levels when it is connected to an iPhone.

Apple’s many hires from the medical sensor field have led some industry watchers to speculate that Apple is developing an iWatch or other wearable tech product that will include many health-monitoring features. For example, last summer 9to5Mac cited insider sources that reported that Apple was assembling a wearable tech product development team that included medical sensor experts from companies like AccuVein, C8 MediSensors, and Senseonics. Apple also hired fitness expert Jay Blahnik, a former Nike (NYSE:NKE) consultant who helped to develop the FuelBand.

More recently, Apple hired Nancy Dougherty and Ravi Narasimhan, two medical sensor experts with wearable technology experience.  Dougherty last worked as the Hardware Lead for Sano Intelligence, a startup that is developing a wearable device that can “continuously monitor blood chemistry via microneedles in the interstitial fluid.” She also once worked for Proteus Digital Health where she helped to develop a Bluetooth-enabled wearable tech device that monitors heart rate, respiration, motion, and temperature.

Before being hired by Apple, Ravi Narasimhan worked at Vital Connect, a biosensor technology company. Narasimhan oversaw the company’s research and development on biosensor technology for “remote physiological monitoring with wearable medical devices.” As noted by MobiHealthNews, Narasimhan personally holds many patents on health-monitoring devices.

Besides hiring dozens of wearable technology and medical sensor experts, Apple has also filed several patents that appear to be well-suited for a smart watch, including a short-range network connection patent, and a patent for an improved flexible OLED display. Apple has also applied for the iWatch trademark in several markets around the world.

Last year, Apple CEO Tim Cook further fueled the iWatch rumors when he observed at the AllThingsD conference that the wrist “is an area for exploration. It is ripe for getting excited about.” The evidence for a smart watch or other type of wearable tech product from Apple has led several prominent analysts to predict that Apple will unveil an iWatch this year, including Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Brian White and DisplaySearch analyst David Hsieh. Although it is still unknown if Apple is actually developing an iWatch, the California-based company’s multiple medical sensor hires suggest that Apple is working on some type of health-monitoring wearable tech product.

Follow Nathanael on Twitter (@ArnoldEtan_WSCS)

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