The new Apple Watch 4. Photo: AP

CAPE TOWN – If Apple were a country, its economy would be among the best-performing economies in the world.

Recently, the company reached a trillion dollar valuation and became the first global firm to get such a valuation.

In 2016, according to statistics, Apple employed 116 000 people. At the time, according to the UN Population Division, one country had the same-size population as Apple had employees – the island nation of Kiribati in the Central Pacific. 

Apple, at its product event this week, presented the future of health care in the digital age. One of the products introduced is the Apple Watch 4. A closer look at the product provides critical lessons on how to use technology and innovation to resolve major national challenges such as health.

The watch for health

The Apple Watch Series 4 is capable of generating an ECG similar to a single-lead electrocardiogram. This functionality will enable the Apple Watch to provide critical real-time data for doctors. Electrodes built into the Apple watch devices when they work together with the ECG app are able to read your heart’s electrical signals. This data can indicate whether your heart rhythm shows signs of atrial fibrillation (a serious form of irregular heart rhythm) or sinus rhythm, which means your heart is beating in a normal pattern.

Each beat of the heart sends out an electrical impulse. With the ECG app, Apple Watch Series 4 can read and record these impulses by connecting the circuit between your heart and both arms. 

The resulting ECG wave form, its classification, and any notes you have entered on related symptoms are automatically stored in the health app on your iPhone. This information can thereafter be shared with the doctor.

The Apple health functionality has even been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a federal agency of the US Department of Health and Human Services.

To get a better understanding of what this means for the future of health care, you have to look at other Apple health initiatives. 

To look after its employees, Apple has built its own health-care centres, via AC Wellness. 

This company is a separate subsidiary of Apple that is dedicated to its employees in Santa Clara County, where the company is based. 

This has been done partly to provide health services to staff, but mainly to conduct health research that will be instrumental in Apple health product development processes.

Apple has also embarked on a recruitment campaign of doctors and health researchers to beef up its health efforts.

What is notable about Apple’s focus on health is that it has paid attention to wellness. This is evident when one looks at the fact that hires skew toward wellness professionals such as nutritionists, exercise specialists and nurse practitioners.

Imagine if a health ministry had this approach to the health of its citizens. This is an example of what a country should strive for in order to solve problems. 

The use of technology to address health challenges by Apple is a great example for health institutions. The ability to understand each citizen’s health status is critical to provide proper health care. 

The great news is that this is possible with the proper use of the health data within a country. 

What Apple is demonstrating is the use of products (physical objects) to collect data and what can be done with it to make a difference. Health is one avenue where quality data can be used to develop solutions. Quality data can also be used for crime, employment and education in order to provide better services. 

Physical objects such as buildings can be used as objects for collecting data that can in turn be used to provide better services.

The Apple event has introduced new products to the world and at the same time it has provided lessons on how challenges can be solved with the use of technology and innovation.

Wesley Diphoko writes about the information economy, innovation and the start-ups eco-system. You can follow him on Twitter via: @WesleyDiphoko

The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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