Skip Links

Apple's hiring spree of biosensor experts continues

As the rumors surrounding Apple's mythical iWatch continue to swell, Apple has continued to hire folks with deep biomedical and sensor technology expertise.

By Yoni Heisler on Thu, 02/13/14 - 3:07am.

As the rumors surrounding Apple's mythical iWatch continue to swell, Apple has continued to hire folks with deep biomedical and sensor technology expertise.

A previously unreported addition to Apple's growing cadre of medical device experts is Marcelo Malini Lamego, who began working at Apple this January.

Before joining Apple this past January, Lamego spent 8 years as the CTO of Cercacor, a medical devices company with a focus on developing noninvasive monitoring technologies.

As CTO, Lamego spearheaded the company's engineering and R&D efforts, where he helped develop the Pronto-7, an award-winning and noninvasive medical device capable of measuring a patient's oxygen saturation and hemoglobin levels, along with a patient's pulse rate. The Pronto-7 is currently being sold by Masimo, a company specializing in noninvasive patient monitoring technologies.

Lamego's LinkedIn profile reads in part:

Lamego further writes in his LinkedIn profile that he's an inventor on "more than 70 patent applications/patents related to optimization and signal processing, devices, sensors and patient monitoring technologies..."

Prior to working at Cercacor, Lamego worked for nearly four years as a Research Scientist at Masimo. While there, he was the lead scientist involved in the development of the Rainbow Technology platform, which Masimo describes as follows:

Masimo rainbow is a noninvasive monitoring platform enabling the assessment of multiple blood constituents and physiologic parameters that previously required invasive or complicated procedures.

The underlying technologies of the Rainbow Technology platform are rather impressive:

  • Innovative noninvasive sensor technology uses more than 7 wavelengths of light to acquire blood constituent data based on light absorption
  • Advanced signal processing algorithms and unique adaptive filters work together to isolate, identify and quantify various hemoglobin species

Another example of a Masimo product which utilizes the Rainbow Technology platform comes in the form of a neck patch that continuously measures a patient's respiration rate and works to alert physicians "to the first sign of an abnormal or compromised breathing pattern."

And just what will Lamego be working on at Apple?

All we know at this point is that he's involved in R&D, but given his past work and fields of expertise, it stands to reason that he's working on sensor technologies in some sort of capacity. Just how involved he is with Apple's rumored iWatch project remains open to speculation.

You might recall that Apple last summer reportedly hired Michael O'Reilly, the former Chief Medical Officer and Executive VP for Medical Affairs at Masimo. 9to5Mac reported a few weeks ago that O'Reilly's work at Apple does not "solely focus on the iWatch project."

So while it remains to be seen what type of functionality Apple's rumored iWatch will ultimately include, there's no denying that the company has been quietly assembling a rather formidable team of folks with extensive and vast expertise in biomedical engineering and medical sensor technologies.

Returning to the Rainbow Technology platform for a second, recall that the platform encompasses "advanced signal processing algorithms," which brings us to yet another interesting Apple hire we haven't seen mentioned yet.

Apple this past November hired Nima Ferdosi as an Algorithms Architect.

The hire is notable because Ferdosi comes to Apple via Vital Connect, yet another mobile health company with a strong focus on wearable medical devices and biosensor technologies.

During a nearly two-year stint at Vital Connect, Ferdosi worked on "algorithms and firmware for embedded bio and motion sensors."

Now, if Vital Connect sounds familiar, it's because Apple in December hired Ravi Narasimhan, formerly Vital Connect's VP of R&D. Narasimhan's LinkedIn profile indicates that, much like Lamego, he's working on R&D initiatives at Apple.

Narasimhan describes his background and areas of expertise as follows:

Research and development on biosensors, machine learning, systems biology and computational biology.

Expertise in biomedical algorithms, data analysis and wireless technologies.

It's worth noting that Ferdosi in 2013 helped author two publications centering on a nonintrusive chest patch sensor capable of monitoring a user's respiratory rate, heart rate, heart rate variability, steps, and even falls.

These two publications were co-authored by Narasimhan and another fellow named Alexander Chan. Chan is a Biomedical Engineer with an extremely impressive background, holding a PhD in Medical Engineering and Medical Physics from the Harvard-MIT Division of Heath Sciences and Technology.

While there's no direct evidence Chan now works for Apple, he did leave Vital Connect in January 2014 to join a "Technology Company" in the San Francisco Bay Area. Hmmm...

Another person who may have been hired by Apple is Stephen Waydo. Again, there's no direct evidence that he works for Apple, but he spent nearly five years working at C8 Medisensors, where he helped work on non-invasive medical products to measure blood glucose.

Waydo left C8 Medisensors in March of 2013 when the company effectively folded, after which he also joined a "Bay Area Technology Company."

And while admittedly super circumstantial, Waydo's Twitter profile shows that his only tweets since March of 2012 occurred on January 24 when he retweeted tweets from both Phil Schiller and Tim Cook regarding the Mac's 30th birthday.

Again, it's very circumstantial, but recall the following blurb from Mark Gurman who was able to chat with C8 Medisensors CTO Rudy Hofmeister this past summer.

During a phone call, the former CTO told us that the company broke down because the glucose-level-analysis technology was facing issues surrounding the consistency of data readings. When the company dissolved, Apple moved aggressively to hire several C8 MediSensors directors and engineers, including designers and scientists that specialize in machine learning (a form of artificial intelligence that focuses on interpreting forms of data), Hofmeister said.

Particularly interesting is that one of Gurman's sources relayed that Apple at one point in time, before the company effectively went under, actually explored the possibility of acquiring C8's technology and resources outright.

Now, one C8 employee whose employment at Apple can be verified is Ueyn Block, who joined Apple in March of 2013 as a Technical Lead/Engineering Manager for optical sensing.

Another Apple hire from the biomedical space is Yuming Liu, an experienced engineer who previously worked at Accuvein on the company's Vein scanner product, a device that's seemingly straight out of the future.

Of course, don't expect Apple to release a product that does anything like it, but the hire goes to the point that Apple is hiring a lot of people with experience in nonintrusive medical technologies.

Indeed, before joining Apple as an analog engineer in October of 2012, Liu spent nearly two years working at O2MedTech, where he helped redesign the company's cerebral oximeter, a device that measures oxygen levels in the blood via nonintrusive sensors placed on a patient's forehead.

His LinkedIn experience reads as follows:

Now, how all of these hires will influence whatever new product category Apple decides to enter next remains to be seen. What we do know, however, is that Apple typically only acquires companies and hires individuals if they can have a direct influence on the company's current or future product line.

So will this rumored iWatch be an all-knowing health monitoring machine? Only time will tell, but given the talent Apple has been bringing in to Cupertino, it certainly seems like an area Apple is exploring rather aggressively.

Recently, a report from Mobihealthnews relayed that Apple's rumored iWatch may not feature a plethora of advanced sensors.

Mark Gurman of 9to5Mac, citing his own sources, begs to differ:

Our knowledge is reliant upon what Apple is programming the Healthbook app to be capable of and based on the company’s recent hires. Our sources today have reiterated that Healthbook is planned to be able to read glucose-related data, something that MobiHealthNews' report denies.

As a final point, remember that Tim Cook last year told Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg that wearable technologies is a profoundly interesting space that's "ripe for exploration."

Cook also added that the "whole sensor field is going to explode. It's a little all over the place right now. With the arc of time, it will become clearer."