Apple exploring adding Spectrometers into future devices for advanced health sensing and more

Spectrometer on Apple Watch

Apple is exploring new ideas to incorporate a unique spectrometer into its mobile devices in the future.

Spectrometers will allow mobile devices to not only measure environmental parameters accurately, such as ambient light but will also help measure numerous health sensing parameters, such as skin-related sensing, disease sensing, and food-related sensing.

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Apple’s latest spectrometer patent details

Details of this unique Spectrometer design approach were published in a new Apple patent today.

Apple’s patent “Electronic Devices with an Alignment-free spectrometer” call for a new single-shot alignment-free spectrometer design with no moving parts.Apple devices with Spectrometer feature

The spectrometer may include a diffractive member such as an aperture and an image sensor that generates data in response to incident light.

These types of measurements may be performed using a spectrometer in combination with a light source that outputs light toward the user’s skin. Spectrometer for health sensing on Apple Watch

The spectrometer may measure reflections from the user’s skin, and known correlations between the measurements and health characteristics may be used to determine desired health conditions.

Apple has been exploring new and innovative approaches to health sensing in some of the other patents published since 2021.

For example, one of the previous patents in this space showcased Apple’s solution that uses terahertz electromagnetic radiation, which is a relatively new technology. Apparently, the terahertz (THz) frequency range corresponds to molecular vibrations, so could be used to detect blood sugar levels.

The existing Apple Watch sensors use a mix of infrared and visible light to measure both heart rate and oxygen saturation.

Rockley is working on more sensitive versions of these sensors, which would be capable of measuring other things.

Although Apple was one of the largest customers of Rockley according to prior filings, it remains to be seen if Apple is also using its own silicon design for advanced spectrometers.

A spectrometer-on-chip could theoretically bolster numerous health-sensing applications. This could provide Apple’s future devices with features to measure blood sugar, hydration, and more.

It is not just Apple that is working on a long list of spectroscopy-related projects. We have seen Samsung Electronics trying to position numerous papers and patents in the area of measuring blood glucose and other health parameters using advanced spectroscopy this year.

The Apple patent published today was filed way back in 2020 and includes prominent engineers from its Optical sensing hardware team such as Chris Dodson and Guocheng Shao (currently a member of the optics team at Meta).

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Sudz Niel Kar
I am a technologist with years of experience with Apple and wearOS products, have a BS in Computer Science and an MBA specializing in emerging tech, and owned the popular site AppleToolBox. In my day job, I advise Fortune 500 companies with their digital transformation strategies and also consult with numerous digital health startups in an advisory capacity. I'm VERY interested in exploring the digital health and fitness-tech evolution and keeping a close eye on patents, FDA approvals, strategic partnerships, and developments happening in the wearables and digital health sector. When I'm not writing or presenting, I run with my Apple Watch Ultra or Samsung Galaxy Watch and closely monitor my HRV and other recovery metrics.


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