Is Apple Hiring Medical Techs for 'iWatch' Team?

New hires fuel rumors of Apple smart watch plans.

Some of the first customers in line walk into the Apple Store to purchase the new iPad Air on Nov. 1, 2013, in New York City.
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Apple has hired at least two developers of medical sensor technology, according to news reports, fueling rumors that the company is designing a smart watch with health and fitness measuring features.

The first hire, Nancy Dougherty, designed a blood monitoring patch while at Sano Intelligence that can measure glucose and potassium levels in a diabetic user's blood without a needle, according to Mark Gurman, a blogger reporting exclusively about Apple for 9to5Mac.

The second hire, Ravi Narasimhan, comes from Vital Connect, a company that designed a Bluetooth-connected biosensor worn on the chest that detects breathing, body temperature and movement, according to 9to5Mac. Fitness and health are the most popular types of wearable devices available to consumers, so this would be a sound strategy for Apple.

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Former Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts also will join Apple this spring, which could help the company design an "iWatch" that would be more fashionable than existing smart watch models with common plastic straps. Intel also has announced partnerships with fashion companies to design stylish wearable devices.

Google, however, may be a step ahead of them in the race to design a smart watch that will resonate as a must-have for consumers the way smartphones have become an integral part of everyday life. Developers at the Google X lab announced on Jan. 17 they are testing a smart contact lens built to measure glucose levels in tears for diabetics, and the company already has designed its Google Glass headset.

Rumors have been buzzing about plans for an "iWatch" since early 2013, when Bloomberg reported that the company had a team of about 100 product designers working on a wristwatch-like device.

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If Apple is planning a smart watch, the company likely would wait to announce it until at least Jan. 2015, since Apple chose January to announce its first iPad in 2010 and its first iPhone in 2007.

The challenge for Apple is that its business model is based on being a premier technology company that sells cutting-edge devices for a premium price. That means it needs to keep designing cutting-edge products, such as an "iWatch," to maintain that business model. Apple is tinkering with ways to sell more affordable versions of its existing products, including the iPhone 5C, which so far has not been as successful with consumers as the more expensive iPhone 5S.

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