Sleep Monitoring Slated for Apple Watch

Sleep Monitoring Slated for Apple Watch
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Original Source: Tech News World

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This article originally appeared in Tech News World on September 4, 2019.

Apple has been developing sleep tracking functionality for the Apple Watch, according to 9to5 Mac.

The report has been confirmed by MacRumors, which received an internal build of iOS 13 from a source.

The new “Time in Bed Tracking” feature — codenamed “Burrito” internally — will let users who wear the Apple Watch to bed track their sleep patterns. Consumers who have multiple Apple Watches can designate one for wearing in bed.

The “Burrito” feature will let Apple Watch track a user’s quality of sleep, including movement, heart rate and noises, using the device’s multiple sensors.

Sleep data will be made available in the Health app and a forthcoming new Sleep app for the Apple Watch.

“Lack of a sleep monitoring capability was one of the big gaps in the Apple Watch experience,” observed Ramon Llamas, research director at IDC.

That said, Apple needs to offer consumers useful takeaways, he told TechNewsWorld. “You can tell me until you’re blue in the face about how I sleep. What I need is for you to tell me how to get better sleep. Am I getting enough of the right kind of sleep? How do I decompress so that I fall asleep?”

Watching You Sleep

Another upcoming feature will remind users to charge their Apple Watch before going to bed so the device has enough juice to monitor their sleep throughout the night.

“Do Not Disturb” will be enabled automatically when the user goes to bed.

A new alarm feature will turn off the wake-up alarm automatically if the user wakes up first. The alarm will play only on Apple Watch, using the iPhone as a backup. There will be a silent vibrating alarm option.

When released, the Sleep app may have an entire watch face, based on a “ClockFaces-Burrito” string, MacRumors reported.

The Apple Watch also will have a new complication for sleep tracking.

“Sleep monitoring is a large segment of health data,” remarked Ray Wang, principal analyst at Constellation Research, who identified four major sleep-related health issues:

  • Insomnia
  • Restless Leg Syndrome
  • Narcolepsy
  • Sleep Apnea

“This opens up a large swath of the health monitoring market, which will be worth (US)$2 billion worldwide by 2025,” Wang told TechNewsWorld..

Apple has “invested a significant amount of money into health and into trying to position the Apple Watch as the go-to device for health,” Llamas said. “Last year, they brought out ECG, and this year they’re moving into sleep applications.”

Schooltime Assistance

Apple also is working on a new “Schooltime” feature for the Apple Watch. It will help students focus on learning during school hours by blocking access to apps, complications, and notifications on the device, MacRumors said. For safety reasons, access to emergency calling and alerts will not be blocked.

“In a world of massive distractions, students and even adults need every tool they can get to stay focused,” Wang observed.

Users can set when Schooltime is enabled on iPhone using the Apple Watch app.

MacRumors also uncovered references to new Apple Watch complications, including ones for Altitude, Latitude and Longitude.

Those additional features improve the accelerometer and allow for better tracking, Wang said.

Taken together, all the new features reported will make the Apple Watch “a great sports, health and fitness monitoring device,” he added.

Security Issues

“While these sleep trackers might seem innocuous, in the wrong hands the data they collect could be misused,” suggested Chris Olson, CEO of The Media Trust.

They could “detect anything from health issues you don’t want disclosed, to a good time for bad actors to conduct theft or any other attack, based on when you’re likely to be inactive and therefore asleep,” he told TechNewsWorld.

That could raise concerns, because security issues with iOS have made headlines repeatedly over the past few months.

Google Project Zero researchers discovered five iPhone exploit chains that indicated a group had been attacking iPhones for at least two years.

A severe iMessage vulnerability that let attackers read files off an iOS device remotely, without any interaction from the victim, also cropped up.

Apple’s iOS 12.4 release accidentally reopened a previously patched security flaw that had let iOS devices be jailbroken through the SockPuppet exploit.

“Any time data is collected, there is a risk of it being hacked. However, the sleep quality data has a fairly low value for attackers, especially if it is not tied directly to other personally identifiable information,” said Erich Kron, security awareness advocate at KnowBe4.

“There is far more valuable data and more critical features available in Apple accounts, such as photos, contact lists, and apps like “Find my iPhone” that hackers could use against people,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“The biggest concerns with these devices were actually covered years ago,” noted Tyler Reguly, manager of security R&D at Tripwire. “Most aren’t related to breaches of the data, but to potential changes in who requires the data and how people interact with it.”

Examples of concerns include employers and insurance companies wanting access to sleep data, using it to expose cheating by a spouse, and a range of other potential privacy violations, he told TechNewsWorld.

“There’s no security risk or worry here,” Reguly said. “Fitbit already offers this sleep tracking feature and has 25 million active users with 76 million sold devices. There are estimates of about 46 million Apple Watches.”