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Apple sees the iPhone as a palm-sized medical clinic

Apple patents a medical device, able to read blood pressure, body fat, oxygen saturation and other vital signs.

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Apple iHeath Apple's new patent shows how the iPhone could be used to not just track, but collect health data. Health and fitness data including blood pressure, blood hydration, body fat, oxygen saturation, pulse among other vital signs can be read by using a camera, presumably on the iPhone, a light sensor and what the patent describes as a "proximity sensor." The combination of all three could even be turned into an electrocardiogram, also known as an EKG, which reads the electrical activity of the heart and usually is done at a doctor's office with electrical leads placed on the body.

Although images in the patent showcase a smartphone, Apple also believes the trifecta of sensors and camera could be used with any mobile computing device, mentioning a tablet, a mobile computer and even a wearable. Apple is looking to push into the mobile health area, using its devices as medical gadgets. Apple's Tim Cook has been reportedly using the Apple Watch to track his blood sugar, and at least one study of Apple's Cardiogram app has shown the program can accurately detect irregular heart rhythms.

The new patent comes at a time Apple is presumably gearing up to launch its next iPhone. While the company has yet to release any details confirming the next smartphone, there are bread crumbs. One, spotted by MacRumors, is Apple's Hong Kong stores not accepting returns or exchanges as of today on any new purchases. Apple made the same policy switch last year with the iPhone 7, and the move is considered a response to black market sales of iPhones from Hong Kong to China.

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