Body temperature sensing technology is thought to be the headline upgrade offered by the Apple Watch Series 8 when it debuts at Apple’s “Far out” event next week. Thanks to various reports from reliable sources, the human body has a pretty good idea of how the body temperature health feature is expected to work.
Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo and other sources have long rumored a body temperature monitoring feature for the Apple Watch, but over the past year, rumors have cleared up around the feature finally debuting on the Apple Watch Series 8 later this year. Contrary to some observers’ hopes of being able to check their body temperature or be notified when they have a fever, it looks like the feature may be significantly limited at launch.
Mark Gurman from the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg reports that the temperature sensor is primarily intended to help with fertility planning, give women insight into their ovulation cycles and could be used to improve pattern detection when tracking sleep. Apple has greatly enhanced the Apple Watch’s sleep tracking capabilities in watchOS 9, so it seems reasonable to improve this area further this year with the help of hardware.
Apple is also said to be planning to enable a temperature sensor to detect when a user has a fever, but it seems unlikely that this feature will be available at the launch of the Apple Watch Series 8. Gurman believes that further down the line, the Apple Watch could determine if a user’s body temperature is higher than normal, but it’s still unlikely to show an accurate measurement. All in all, this suggests that the temperature sensor that comes with the Apple Watch Series 8 may not be quite what some users are expecting.
Apple originally intended to offer temperature measurement in the Apple Watch Series 7 model, but the plan was put on hold after the company developed a temperature algorithm that failed to meet requirements before the device entered the engineering verification testing (EVT) phase last year, according to Ming-Chi Kuo.
The problems Apple encountered with temperature measurement were allegedly related to rapid changes in skin temperature based on the environment, and since the smartwatch cannot monitor core body temperature in hardware, the feature relies heavily on an algorithm that produces accurate results. This likely explains why the Apple Watch’s ability to sense body temperature may be limited when the Series is launched later this year.
Last month, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted Apple a patent for a temperature sensing system that is clearly related to the Apple Watch – including a “highly accurate and precise absolute temperature sensor. Apple’s patent protects an electronic device enclosure that encloses a temperature sensing system – including a temperature sensor and a temperature difference probe.
The system works by calculating the difference between the two ends of the probe. One end touches the surface to be measured, while the other end is connected to a temperature sensor. The voltage delta at each end of the probe can then be correlated with the temperature difference measurement.
It’s unclear whether the exact technology outlined in the patent is related to the body temperature sensor expected to be used in the Apple Watch Series 8. It’s also possible that Apple plans to use a patented system from Rockley Photonics. The company is a British health technology startup that has created a system of sensors designed for wearable devices – including a core body temperature sensor.
Last year, it was revealed that Apple was Rockley Photonics’ largest customer. Rockley’s financial filings say that Apple has accounted for the majority of its revenue over the past two years and that it has an ongoing supply and development agreement with the company under which it expects to continue to rely heavily on Apple for the majority of its revenue. Rockley has previously said that it expects its technology will be available for consumer smartwatches in 2022, which could coincide with the launch of the Apple Watch Series 8.
In addition to the temperature sensor, the Apple Watch Series 8 is expected to feature the S8 chip and a low-power mode to extend battery life. The device will most likely be unveiled at the Apple event on September 7.