As Apple-focused publication 9to5Mac recently reported, Apple has hired two medical sensor experts away from digital health startups Sano Intelligence and Vital Connect, assumedly to build the health sensing functionality of the rumored, wristworn iWatch device.
What the publication glosses over, however, is that Nancy Dougherty, the former hardware lead at transdermal medication delivery startup Sano, was formerly a senior electrical engineer and key hardware designer of Proteus Digital Health's Bluetooth-enabled, peel-and-stick vital signs monitoring patch. Dougherty spent more than two years at Proteus from October 2010 to late 2012. Here's how her bio describes her work there:
"Development of an FDA regulated Class II medical device; a Bluetooth-enabled electronic 'Band-Aid' that monitors heart rate, respiration, motion, and temperature, as well as detects technologically enabled 'Smart Pills' that are ingested and activated in the stomach. Brought hardware design through 2 product cycles, controlled the schematic in the second generation. Responsible for hardware design, firmware support, failure analysis, and system troubleshooting. Managed all power budgets, and created hardware, firmware, and software for test systems. Studied psychology, behavior design, and interface design, and created and implemented experiments based on this research; presented this research at several conferences."
After Proteus, Dougherty joined Sano Intelligence as the "very early stage startup's" hardware lead. Sano, which was a member of Rock Health's second class of startups first announced in late 2011, is developing a wearable sensor system that aims to continuously monitor the wearer's blood chemistry. The company's website only describes it as an "API for the bloodstream".
According to 9to5Mac, Apple also hired Ravi Narasimhan from health sensor company Vital Connect. In 2012 MobiHealthNews reported that Vital Connect inked a deal with SecuraTrac to develop a mobile personal emergency response (mPERS) offering called SecuraFone Health, which would detect falls, changes in heart and breathing rate and other vital signs, thanks to a sensor worn on the chest or back. Hermosa Beach, Calif.-based SecuraTrac would provide the app and tracking technology, based on its existing SecuraFone mobile app, an Android and Apple iOS product that, among other things, helps families track the driving of teens and seniors. Vital Connect, once known as Vigilo Networks, contributed the biosensor, in the form of a water-resistant patch that provides continuous monitoring for two to three days at a time. Narasimhan was the company's VP of research and development and he holds dozens of patents related to medical sensors.
Couple these important hires with Apple's hiring of Ueyn Block, former Director of Optics & Systems Engineering at C8 MediSensors and Todd Whitehurst, former Vice President of Product Development at Senseonics last summer, and the prospect of a future iWatch with medical sensing capabilities becomes increasingly likely.