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Apple wants to build a custom health chip for processing biometric data

According to recent job listings

Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

Apple is working on a dedicated custom health chip that would help it process biometric data from its suite of devices, according to job listings unearthed by CNBC today. The company currently designs custom chips for its iPhone and is rumored to switch to custom processors for its Mac line of computers as early as 2020. Currently, the Apple Watch is powered by the custom S3 chip.

CNBC reports that these new job listings indicate Apple would like to go one step further with regard to health data and integrate a custom chip that would be solely responsible for processing metrics like heart rate and helping improve battery efficiency on devices like the Apple Watch.

One listing reads, “We are looking for sensor ASIC architects to help develop ASICs for new sensors and sensing systems for future Apple products. We have openings for analog as well as digital ASIC architects.” Another says Apple is looking for engineers to “help develop health, wellness, and fitness sensors.” The job listings have since been removed.

We don’t know if Apple is simply looking to integrate better health tracking and monitoring features or sensors into its existing chip sets for the iPhone or Apple Watch, or if it’s interested in developing a custom chip that would work in tandem with other hardware components. At the moment, the Apple Watch uses a custom optical sensor for measuring heart rate. A new chip could work with that existing sensor or a next-generation one to better process the data, or it could help the accompanying device be more efficient while it collects and analyzes that data.

The A11 Bionic chip, found in both the iPhone X and iPhone 8, contains a special “Neural Engine” dedicated to helping speed up artificial intelligence-related tasks like FaceID and Animoji. A new health-focused chip could be engineered similarly, in that it’s responsible for standard computing tasks in addition to health-related ones. The next Apple Watch is expected to launch this fall alongside the newest iPhone models. However, the timing of the job listings indicate that these efforts may not manifest in parts used in consumer products for quite some time.