Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) latest hire has bolstered rumors that the iPhone maker is developing an iWatch with health-monitoring features. As recently uncovered by NetworkWorld, Apple hired Marcelo Lamego, a medical sensor expert, last month. According to his LinkedIn profile page, Lamego last worked as the CTO for Cercacor, a California-based medical device company that specializes in non-invasive health-monitoring technologies. As noted by NetworkWorld, the Stanford-educated doctor led Cercacor’s efforts to develop the Pronto-7, a non-invasive medical device that can detect a patient’s hemoglobin levels, pulse rate, blood oxygen saturation levels, and perfusion index.
The hiring of Lamego appears to further substantiate the rumors that Apple is developing a wearable tech device that will include multiple health-monitoring features. Lamego’s hiring follows the recent news that several Apple executives met with officials from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in December to discuss “Mobile Medical Applications.” The meeting included medical sensor expert Michael O’Reilly, another recent Apple hire who previously worked for a company that developed an iPhone-enabled pulse oximeter.
Although rumors of an Apple “smart watch” have been circulating since at least 2012, it wasn’t until last summer that the first evidence of a health-related iWatch began to emerge. As noted by Apple Insider, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo first suggested last May that Apple’s iWatch would feature biometric functionalities that would enable health-monitoring features. A few weeks later, well-connected Apple watcher Mark Gurman at 9to5Mac cited insider sources that reported that the Cupertino-based company had assembled a wearable tech product development team with medical sensor experts from companies like AccuVein, C8 MediSensors, and Senseonics.
Although Apple has never confirmed the existence of an iWatch, many industry watchers are becoming increasingly convinced that the device will be released this year. Prominent analysts such as Cantor Fitzgerald’s Brian White and DisplaySearch’s David Hsieh have both predicted that Apple will release an iWatch in 2014 based on their supply chain checks.
There have also been various unconfirmed rumors about an iWatch from Apple’s Asian supply chain. According to unnamed “industry sources” cited by the Korea Herald earlier this month, Samsung (SSNLF.PK) SDI, LG Chem, and Tianjin Lishen Battery will be supplying a specialized lithium-ion battery for Apple’s iWatch. The Korea Herald also predicted that the device would be released in the “latter half of this year.” In January, the Taiwan-based DigiTimes reported that one of Apple’s suppliers had already completed a trial manufacturing run for the iWatch’s chassis.
Although these supply chain rumors should always be taken with a grain of salt, there is little doubt that an Apple iWatch would be a successful product. According to Juniper Research, the wearable tech device market will rapidly grow to $19 billion by 2018, compared to $1.4 billion last year. Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty recently predicted that an iWatch could bring Apple between $10 billion and $14 billion in its first year of availability.
Follow Nathanael on Twitter (@ArnoldEtan_WSCS)