Finally, a Reason You Might Actually Want a Smartwatch

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Feb. 5 2014 7:17 PM

Apple's Smartwatch May Help You Sleep Better

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By hiring a sleep expert, Apple may be hinting at some of the features and functions the company is working on for its smartwatch.

Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

For all the rumors about Apple's smartwatch, no one outside Cupertino knows yet exactly what the company is going for. One of its new hires, according to reporting by 9To5Mac, is providing some clues, though. Roy J.E.M Raymann is a researcher from Philips who studies sleep. Specifically, he looks at how sensors, wearables, and other non-medical methods can help people improve their sleep habits and wake up more rested.

Apple wouldn't be the first to incorporate sleep-monitoring tools into a mobile or wearable device. Sleep trackers are already a staple of mobile apps like SleepCycle, fitness wearables like FitBit, and even bed sensors like Beddit. Yet for all the iOS apps that take advantage of the accelerometers and gyroscopes in iDevices to collect various sorts of biometric data, Apple has yet to release a native product that does fitness or lifestyle tracking. The company's expected smartwatch, often called iWatch for lack of better name rumors, could fill that hole by monitoring vital signs or things like hydration level.

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Tech companies have yet to convince consumers that they need a smartwatch for things like checking email or text messages, which they can already do on a smartphone. But the success of the FitBit and Nike's Fuelband suggests there's a real market for wearables that unobtrusively monitor your activity while you go about other tasks, like running or snoozing. A wristband is a lot easier to sleep with than a phone. 

The possibilites for Raymann's role go beyond just clocking our hours spent unconscious. An ideal sleep app might involve suggesting optimal wakeup times based on your sleep cycle, recommendations for sleeping while traveling, and more. Apple has been doing a lot of hiring in the realms of biometric sensing and wearable devices lately, but the prospect of better night's rest may be the long-awaited Apple watch's most compelling use case yet. 

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Lily Hay Newman is lead blogger for Future Tense.

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