Future AirPods to Include “Ambient Light Sensors” Possibly Linked to Health Rumors

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Apple is reportedly looking to integrate light sensors into a new AirPods model over the next two years, according to a new report released today, suggesting that their use may be part of the rumors that the health monitoring capabilities of real wireless headphones. In a paid article, DigiTimes reports that ASE technology could be involved in the manufacturing of sensors:

Apple is expected to integrate ambient light sensors (ALS) into next generation PAirPods devices within the next 1-2 years, and Taiwanese ASE technology could handle the backend process for the new component, as it has decided to buy more packaging machines, industry sources say.

The report preview does not specify the function that ambient light sensors would provide, but another DigiTimes report suggests today that they would be part of biometric measurements:

ASE Technology is about to apply its SiP conditioning technology based on SESUB (semiconductor integrated into the substrate) to the new generation TWS (true wireless stereo) headphones that will be launched by Apple, after being contracted to manage AIP (high-end mmWave antennas) package) for 5G iPhones and tablets, according to industry sources.

ASE has combined SiP with an integrated AI design for TWS gears, allowing devices to monitor heart rate, number of steps and health conditions and even perform intelligent translation and detect head movements , added the sources.

DigiTimes’ sources often provide reliable information, but the site has a mixed history of interpreting that information and accurately deciphering Apple’s plans. However, it is conceivable that the sensors could be linked to rumors of health monitoring, such as heart rate and / or oxygen saturation of the ear’s blood.

Clip-on pulse oximeters work by making red and infrared light shine through the blood vessels and a light sensor measures the volume of oxygen in the blood based on the amount of light passing through the finger. These sensors can also be used to measure the pulse rate.

In hospitals, clip-on, ear-based pulse oximeters work on the same principle and illuminate the earlobe. Part of the light is absorbed by the skin and the unabsorbed part reaches the light sensor on the other side.

It is unclear whether Apple could perform a similar function without rethinking the way irAirPods Air and AirPods Pro sit in the ear. As it stands, a more likely candidate for the technology would be Apple’s fitness-focused headphones: Powerbeats Pro sports an on-ear design similar to true Freewavz true wireless headphones, which have built-in pulse oximeters for measure blood oxygen and heart rate.

Early last year, DigiTimes said Apple would release next-generation “AirPods” with “health monitoring features” in the first half of 2019. While Apple launched second-generation “AirPods” generation in March 2019, intelligent health surveillance was clearly absent.

DigiTimes receives a flood of data from the Asian supply chain, some of which claims to relate to prototypes or test products that are never released or significantly modified before launch, distorting their accuracy. Given this caveat, Apple may have retained health monitoring functionality for a future “AirPods” model. We certainly know that Apple has explored how it could integrate health monitoring functionality into future “AirPods”.

Apple patent describes headset-based fitness monitoring system that incorporates an advanced biometric sensor that can detect physiological measurements, including temperature, heart rate, perspiration levels, and more, through skin contact and via integrated motion sensors.

Monitoring blood oxygen is useful for measuring fitness and recovery, but it can also reveal health problems like sleep apnea and other problems. Apple is expected to enable functionality in a future model of Apple Watch, and CEO Tim Cook has highlighted Apple’s interest in health as a major goal that could ultimately become “Apple’s greatest contribution to humanity ”

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