The US Patent and Trademark Office has published an Apple patent application that sheds more light on the new handwashing feature in the latest version of the Apple Watch. The feature was designed to help people wash their hands properly, and was introduced with the release of watchOS 7 in June before appearing in the Apple Watch Series 6 a few months later.
At the time, Apple suggested that the handwashing utility could help combat COVID-19. The new patent application reveals that the feature was in the works well before the onset of COVID-19, though the thinking behind it is the same, insofar as proper hygiene can help slow the spread of any disease. In that regard, the application details a system that uses the motion and audio sensors in a wearable device to monitor the user’s health-related activities.
As it relates to handwashing, that means that the Watch can use an accelerometer and other sensors to track a person’s movements when they are washing their hands. Based on that feedback, the system can determine when the wearer has completed each step of the handwashing process, from scrubbing all the way through to rinsing, to make sure that everything has been done correctly to minimize the threat of any contagions.
The patent goes on to describe systems that reduce power consumption, as would be the case with a system that uses motion data to trigger the activation of an audio sensor. The solution could also be deployed in other wearable devices, such as a smart ring or a fitness band. Unlike most patents, which describe technology that could make its way into a future device, the technology described in this particular application has already appeared in a commercial Apple product, and is therefore more likely to appear in others.
Source: Patently Apple