KEY POINTS

  • A new patent shows that the Apple Watch could soon monitor a wheelchair user's activities
  • The Apple Watch counts steps by monitoring arm movements
  • By monitoring specific arm movements, the Apple Watch can monitor wheelchair users as well

Fitness trackers normally help users keep track of their fitness levels by measuring the number of steps they take in a day, the distance they walked or ran, and also by measuring how many calories they burn while doing things such as running or exercising.

These fitness trackers count a wearer's steps by monitoring the user's movements. The Apple Watch, for example, counts steps taken daily by tracking the wearer's arm motion using the built-in accelerometer, as well as by using GPS data when available.

A new patent published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office reveals that soon, the Apple Watch will also be able to monitor the activities of wheelchair users. This will make Apple's wearable useful to even more people around the world.

How it will do that

As mentioned above, the Apple Watch can count the steps of the non-wheelchair user by monitoring his arm movements. The newly-patented technology simply builds up on that, and will give Apple's wearable specific instructions on what to watch out for to be able to measure a wheelchair user's movements.

Apple Watch The arm movements the Apple Watch will look out for on a wheelchair user. Photo: Apple/USPTO

The patent offers several embodiments detailing how the Apple Watch will be able to measure movement. Some of them talk about the device as having a processor circuit that can detect movement based on stored motion data, and can also estimate the energy that the user spent on a certain activity, regardless of whether the street has a flat slope, inclined or downhill.

Embodiments also talk about the Apple Watch has using a motion sensor, which might include an accelerometer, a gyroscope and a magnetometer (or a combination of any of the three). This motion sensor will be used to detect movement, determine pose angle, keep track of pushes the user made on the wheel, and calculate the amount of energy spent based on motion data.

The patent goes into great detail describing how the system will work. It also includes illustrations and flowcharts showing how the system will be able to determine movement and monitor a wheelchair user's activity. Apple said the new system can be used by the “wheelchair user for health, safety, or productivity reasons.”