Now that iPhone has almost become an open platform for third party software development, we can expect tons of new exciting applications that will make it into a much more useful thing, then a fancy phone and media player.
But that does not mean that developers inside Apple are leaving all this to the third parties. They are also busy, thinking up a whole lot of new things that an iPhone could do.
And recent patent applications provide us with a glimpse of the things to come.
When I started browsing through these patents , I first thought that it was just a new fitness application for iPhone:
Turns out, that Apple is thinking how to make an iPhone into a full “Lifestyle companion” device, that can monitor your health condition, act as a fitness trainer and diet consultant, suggest daily routines dependent on your occupation and personal health hazards, and even shape your shopping habits.
And all this on the same familiar iPhone platform .
The key here is modular approach, incorporation of multiple sensors in the iPhone itself, it’s accessories and specialized software and content available through the iTunes.
Let’s start with the sensors.
iPhone already comes with the built-in accelerometer, camera, microphone and may soon have a GPS chip. These sensors alone can provide tons of data for various lifestyle applications, like workout monitoring via accelerometer, distance covered via GPS chips, ability to read barcodes via camera, and audio clues via microphone.
Then there are external sensors.
These can include the various infrared, visual light and electric sensors that can be fitted into an earbud to measure body temperature, heat flux, heart rate, blood oxygen content, EKG waveforms, etc. Or, they, and quite a few others, can be fitted into an armband or waistband with iPhone dock.
The data, collected by these sensors, is then transmitted to the iPhone via standard connection, and analyzed via software on the device, or transmitted through the cellular network and analyzed remotely.
All the data collected about the user activities and health condition can then be used to build tons of applications, like training programs, diet recommendation, health health condition monitor and doctor check-out recommendations, etc; to create a powerful “Lifestyle Companion System” .
iPhone as personal fitness trainer
One example of such application can be a personal trainer program for your iPhone.
To set-up such a program you first use your Mac, to answer fitness related questions, provide information about your physical condition and training goals. The application creates a training program to achieve these goals.
The training program can also include your music preferences, together with pre-loaded music files to be played during the work-out and even tailored to a particular exercise.
You can select one or more entertainment playlists from entertainment playlist menu and assign an energy rank to each of the selected entertainment playlists according to energy level of the corresponding media tracks. The entertainment playlists can be manually assigned energy ranks by the user or automatically assigned energy ranks by the lifestyle companion system in accordance with, for example, the tempo of songs in each entertainment playlist.
Your iPhone personal trainer can also check your calendar appointments and suggest the based time-slots for the exercise.
Then you sync your Mac to your iPhone and go to a gym. You launch the training program (or it may even be turned on automatically, by determining that you are in a gym, via GPS sensor) and start exercising.
The program monitors your progress, your heartbeat, blood pressure and other indicators, via sensors described above, and makes the recommendation to increase or lower your exercise intensity. It can also suggest which particular exercise to perform next.
In the meantime it also makes sure your are not bored by playing your playlist menu, a video menu, a photo menu, a song menu, a podcast menu, a radio station broadcast menu, or any combination thereof.
Over time, as your physical condition improves, the trainer can adjust your exercise program accordingly. Or it can notice that you are slacking-off and start nagging you to do better.
iPhone as personal diet coach
Another example provided in a patent application is for iPhone as a personal diet coach.
Again, during the set-up process on you computer, the Personal Diet Coach Program conducts an interview regarding you nutritional goals. Interview questions can be directed to, e.g., weight-loss goals, the user’s current diet, food allergies, food preferences, medical conditions, medications, financial allocation for nutritional needs, religion, time available to prepare food, other lifestyle information, etc.
Based on the user interview responses, the lifestyle companion system can generate a user nutritional profile and suggests nutritional activities.
It can suggest a list of fitting restaurant, based on you diet profile and location information, and even on your price preferences. It can also help with menu selections.
When you are at home and feel like cooking, your Coach can provide you with a list of the recipes and/or meal plans tailored to your specific needs. The recipes and meal plans can be suggested based on the your nutritional needs and/or restrictions, any specific diets the you trying, relevant life events (e.g., birthday and/or the your exercise schedule), etc.
And, via the Net connection and GPS, if you are missing some products, it can even provide you with their availability and price information at the nearest grocery stores.
Your diet coach can also collect data about your performance. For example, the camera on your iPhone can act as a scanner that can scan a barcode representing the food purchased and/or eaten. Alternatively, you couple your iPhone into a dock at a restaurant. A server at the restaurant then can download nutritional information about your meal into there.
Then it can monitor what you consume dynamically adapt to your nutritional goals and/or activities based on that data. For example, if a you consumed too many calories already, the the Diet Coach can reduce the your future allotment of calories by, for example, suggesting different recipes or menu selections, suggesting different portions, and/or changing the ingredients in suggested recipes.
Your Diet Coach also can adjust your nutritional goals if data collected over a predetermined period of time indicate that your nutritional habits will not enable the you to reach the nutritional goals.
It can also use the information about your health condition, gathered via external sensors, to suggest the adjustment of your eating habits.
Fitness and diet applications can also work together to provide you with the best exercise and eating options.
iPhone Lifestyle Companion System
The whole iPhone Lifestyle Companion system is based on a modular plug-in architecture.
I described the hardware set-up above, but is also applied to third party content and software extensions.
Other companies can be producing specialized sensor accessories, software and content that can be plugged in into an iPhone Lifestyle Companion to provide just the functionality you need.
The content and software applications could include special branded or trusted exercise programs, diet plans and recipe collections. These packages can then be downloaded via the iTunes store.
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