The most recent report surrounding Apple's rumored iWatch is that the company recently hired Philips Research sleep expert Roy J.E.M Raymann to work on the project. The news comes courtesy of 9to5Mac, which reports that Raymann comes to Apple with "extensive experience in wearables, sensors, and non-pharmacological methods of improving sleep quality.
Of course, the latest buzz regarding the iWatch is that it will serve as sort of an all-encompassing health and fitness monitor that seamlessly transmits pertinent information to your iOS device.
So just what might Raymann, who previously founded the Philips Sleep Experience Laboratory, be doing at Apple? While only Apple truly knows the answer to that, we can of course look to Raymann's expertise and his previous research projects for telling clues.
In a nutshell, Raymann's previous work seems to center on how to optimize sleep via non-pharmacological approaches.
Below are a few highlights from his LinkedIn profile.
He's been a Senior Scientist at Philips Research since November 2008, where his responsibilities included in part:
Sleep Thought leader for Consumer Lifestyle Sleep Research Program. Steering and coordinating the portfolio for Innovation for non-medical problem sleep.
From 2006 through 2008, he worked at an independant research organization in the Netherlands called TNO, where his activities included the following:
Conducting and coordinating research on sleep, thermoregulation and wearable physiological sensor. Main application target were sportsmen and soldiers.
More specific topics covered: Performance during anxiety and physical exercise, wearable sensors for soldiers, training protocols to prevent frostbite, thermoregulation while driving, vigilance and thermal comfort in the mid east climate, sleep during cold, thermal properties of preventive clothing...
And before that, Raymann completed a Ph.D at the Netherlands Institute for Neurosciences, which he describes thusly:
Ground breaking research on the interaction between sleep, alertness and thermoregulation. Solid evidence that by applying mild skin warming to humans, sleep-pressure, sleep quality and alertness could be altered. Finished with thesis entitled "Mild skin warming, a non-pharmacological way to modulate sleep and vigilance" in 2013. Supervised by Prof. Dr. Eus van Someren.
Built a sleep laboratory from scratch, executed rigorous 24 experimental protocols, improved my skills on patient handling and sleep scoring.
Putting everything together, Raymann's hiring seems to strongly suggest that the iWatch will help users more effectively monitor their sleep activity and perhaps improve sleep quality in the process. Indeed, a number of apps in the App Store already purport to do the same thing. One app that I've tried out myself works by measuring my sleep patterns, identifying when I'm in a deep sleep, ranking the quality of my sleep, and waking me up when I'm in the lightest phase of the sleep cycle. I'm no sleep expert, so I can't attest to its accuracy, but it certainly is a fun and seemingly helpful little app.
Of course, similar functionality already exists with existing wearables, including the FitBit.
Analysts and pundits have been all too quick to point out that Apple under Tim Cook hasn't entered any new product categories or released any game-changing products. Of course, the notion that revolutionary new products can be churned out on a set schedule is patently absurd. Nonetheless, Tim Cook recently told the Wall Street Journal that new product categories will be in Apple's sight in 2014.