On September 12, 2018, Apple announced the next iteration of Apple Watch: Apple Watch 4. What are the B2B ramifications of this release? Should care?
Apple Watch 4 includes updates to a number of key features, but one change and one addition grabbed our attention.
What does Apple Watch have to do with B2B?
At some point, every personal technological advancement begets a B2B application. Apple Watch is no exception. Since its launch in 2016, several companies have taken advantage of creating apps for and/or adapting the watch for a creative use. Two examples stand out. Apple Watch quickly became an enterprise tool. Microsoft was the first to the party, adapting Outlook and other apps to the watch. Slack, and many other companies, hopped on board, figuring out ways to integrate their B2B products with Apple Watch. Apple has a direct-to-business channel for Apple Watch to help promote corporate wellness.
First, the app Clue by the German tech company BioWing GmbH adapted Apple Watch to help women track their menstrual cycles to keep track of fertility, ovulation, PMS, and more. They augmented the health tracking capability built into the watch and tailored it for a woman’s body. Irregular periods are the way of life for many women, however an irregular cycle could be an indication of another health care concern—changes in hormone production, thyroid disease, or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Fewer women are scheduling appointments with their care providers and many delay going because of fear or discomfort. Clue on Apple Watch gives doctors a tool to help track their patients and gather data that will help beyond an interview about cycles.
Secondly, AliveCor created an aftermarket watch band that when combined with its app and the electronics onboard the Apple Watch created the first-of-its-kind wearable EKG. (The company has also developed accessories for iPhone and standalone use). Like we will discuss below, KardiaBand gives doctors a less-intrusive method of monitoring patients with heart challenges.
Both of these hardware/software solutions—plus many more—demonstrate the B2B potential for adapting Apple Watch. The new features expand that possibility.
Apple has not announced the date of the release of these two features, giving B2B tech companies time to consider how to respond to the market.
Apple has upgraded the accelerometer inside the watch, doubling the dynamic range, measuring up to 32 G-forces, and sampling motion data eight times faster. In addition to much more accurate fitness tracking, Apple Watch 4 can detect when a wearer falls—it’s sophisticated enough to delineate falls forward, slips, falls backwards, and the severity of the fall. When a fall occurs, the watch gives you a screen from which you can place an emergency call. If you are immobile for sixty seconds, it starts a call to emergency services and notifies your emergency contacts.
Business Opportunity #1: Faster Response Time to Workplace Injuries
Falls make up fully one-third of all non-fatal accidents in the US and are one of the top three workplace-related accidents. Businesses face challenges related to falls—the health and wellness of their employees, financial liability, loss of productivity, and more.
Preventing falls and reacting to falls has been a workplace discussion for years. The Apple Watch 4 affords businesses a new opportunity to aid their employees and help them get the care they need faster. Implementing the watches across the company with a policy in place to notify someone onsite in the event of a fall could reduce the number of workplace accidents and the severity of them. Awareness reduces the risk. If a company talked about falls—just in the context of the Apple Watch roll out—they would be raising awareness.
Revenue winner: Apple for sale of watches and apps
Revenue runner-up: any company in reduced expenses related to workplace accidents
Lifestyle winner: employees
Business Opportunity #2: Greater Employee Wellness
A company could roll out a more comprehensive wellness strategy for its employees. Apple created a corporate wellness plan for employers in 2016. Much has been written on fitness monitoring in the workplace.
Now that the watch can stand alone, deploying watches across your company won’t necessitate a platform change for phones throughout the team.
Revenue winner: Apple for sale of watches and apps
Revenue runner-up: Your company. Greater wellness means less downtime, reduced health insurance premiums, and more.
Lifestyle winner: Your employees
Business Opportunity #3: Senior Adult Programs
Senior adults are at a greater risk for a fall and the effects of a fall. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that an older adult—65 or older—dies from a fall every 20 minutes.
- More than one in four older adults falls every year; fewer than half tell their doctor
- 3 million older adults are treated in emergency departments each year for fall injuries
- More than 800,000 patients are hospitalized each year because of a fall, most often because of a head injury or hip fracture
Apple Watch can be set up to share a report via PDF to a doctor using the onboard Health app. By increasing the reporting of falls, doctors or facilities could provide more care for head or other associated injuries. The notification tools in the fall detection functions also could reduce the severity of the fall, thus reducing subsequent hospitalizations.
Revenue winner: senior care provider for value-added service
Lifestyle winner: senior adults
As exciting as the improved accelerometer is to consumers and B2B companies alike, the big announcement from Apple was the improvements of the crystals and sensors on the back of the watch combined with physical changes to the crown in order to facilitate a single-lead electrocardiogram on the watch. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted Apple clearance for both the fall detection and the new ECG functions on Apple Watch 4 at the last minute, causing many executives and the Apple Watch team to lose sleep the night before the keynote. Apple Watch 4 is now considered a Class II medical device which means it has been cleared by the FDA for use but not approved as a Class III. Apple further clarified the FDA moniker by emphasizing that it has received a “de novo” classification for the EKG feature —this means it’s unlike anything else on the market. It is the first direct-to-consumer EKG wearable, unlike the AliveCor KardiaBand (mentioned above) which was only available through providers.
The improved sensors on Apple Watch 4 now alert the wearer to low pulse rate, high pulse rate, and irregular rhythm otherwise known as atrial fibrillation. Many cardiologists have praised the advances including Jaqmeet P. Singh, MD, DPhil, associate chief of the cardiology division at Massachusetts General Hospital, who called it a “game changer.”
Business Opportunity #4: Better Doctor/Patient Communication
Dr Singh said, “Since the sensor and its ability to record ECGs and classify the heart rhythm is FDA-approved, it will begin to find its way into clinical practice and potentially into the electronic health record. It will certainly create a heightened awareness about rhythm disturbances and atrial fibrillation.”
The American Heart Association reports that 100 million Americans have high blood pressure. The CDC notes that only 70% of those diagnosed take medications to control high blood pressure, and there are many patients for whom medication doesn’t help. The health risks don’t just include heart attack—vision loss and stroke are also brought about, in part, by blood pressure and heart issues. One in every four deaths in the United States is caused by heart disease. The heart, its rhythms, and how we respond to it are critical to our health. Having a monitor that’s easy to use, fun to wear, and can alert a doctor makes managing heart health easier and more immediate.
Apple Watch 4 can help clinicians identify intermittent arrhythmias that are difficult to capture on the short-term monitors loaned to patients. Health care providers can also get a feel in real time for how exercise and medication are incrementally improving a patient’s health. A wearable also motivates patients to keep to their fitness goals.
There are concerns, however. The FDA cleared the medical device for use by adults over the age of 22. It’s intended to inform, not diagnose. Users alerted to arrhythmia could be saved months of deteriorating health by communicating immediately with their health care providers. On the other hand, Nicholas Leeper, MD, cardiologist and associate professor of vascular surgery and cardiovascular medicine at Stanford University Medical Center warned, “Other arrhythmias are merely a nuisance and don’t require any treatment at all. I am concerned that many otherwise healthy people who — if monitored continuously 24 hours a day — will be found to have brief spells of arrhythmias that have an unknown natural history. Such nebulous diagnoses might not only induce anxiety, they could cause patients to be exposed to additional tests and therapies that have their own set of complications.”
B2B applications for major technological advances follow consumer applications and vice versa. Don’t overlook the value of developing and integrating this tool into the deployment of your product or service. If not Apple Watch, what other consumer electronic product could be harnessed for greater engagement and use by your customers?