At its annual developer conference, Apple announced a bunch of things, including a major software update (WatchOS 4) for its Watch, paving the way for new medical applications.
Most significantly, the Apple Watch can now directly communicate with other devices without iPhone serving as an intermediary. This in turn will allow, for instance, connected glucose monitors — such as those manufactured by DexCom — to send results directly to the wearer's wrist (from where they could later be routed to the iPhone and then to a cloud-based service).
Apple has opened the Bluetooth API to let developers take advantage of this new capability and further expand the Watch's applications.
Another new thing is the expanded fitness tracking that now lets users stitch together multiple workouts in a single session, such as using a running machine and then a stationary bike.
Related, these indoor fitness exercise machines are now made a part of the equation with the new Gym Connect feature, enabling two-way data exchange between the Apple Watch and compatible (newer) gym equipment like treadmills. Gym Connect uses an NFC sensor to transmit the information and is expected to be rolled out in the fall.
In order to use this feature, Apple Watch wearers will just touch the NFC reader to fire-up the workout app. From there, the Watch will send its heart rate readings to the gym equipment, and get back incline and speed data in return. To make this work, Apple has struck deals with most popular gym equipment makers that together account for 80 percent of the market.
Finally, Apple has also enhanced some gamification elements, and will be able to distinguish between incremental improvements and performance milestones, and celebrate them accordingly.
Apple is already one of the leading wearable device makers, and with this latest update — it is poised to further cement its position as a number one smartwatch maker.