| May 31, 2019

Apple bought a start-up developing an app to monitor asthma in children

Anca Spanu

Anca's career in journalism spans over 2 decades. She has served as staff writer, editor and deputy chief editor at... Anca's career in journalism spans over 2 decades. She has served as staff writer, editor and deputy chief editor at various media outlets all over the world. At Healthcare Weekly, Anca writes about current events, innovations in the healthcare space and events/ conferences with a focus on investing & startups.

According to cnbc, Apple has acquired Tueo Health, a small start-up, which raised a small seed round of $1.1 million in funding in 2017 and was developing a system to help parents monitor asthma symptoms in sleeping children.

Although the news has not been confirmed by either party, and it is unclear how much Apple paid for Tueo Health, Tueo’s CEO and co-founder Bronwyn Harris and Chief Operating Officer Anura Patil changed their employer to Apple on their LinkedIn profiles in late 2018, so that was probably the time Apple acquired the company.  

Asthma is affecting 235 million people, being common among children

The World Health Organization estimates that 235 million people are suffering from asthma; it is the most common non-infectious and non-transmissible disease among children.

 

Asthma is not only a public health problem for high-income countries; it occurs in all countries regardless of the level of development. Most asthma-related deaths occur in low- and lower-middle income countries.

Asthma is under-diagnosed and under-treated. Although most deaths occur in older adults, asthma has a significant impact on children’s lives. It creates a substantial burden to individuals and families and often restricts individuals’ activities for a lifetime.

Key facts about asthma

  • Asthma is a chronic disease and one of the major non-communicable ones. It inflames and narrows the air passages of the lungs, creating discomfort and difficulty breathing.
  • Some 235 million people currently suffer from asthma. It is a common disease among children.
  • Most asthma-related deaths occur in low- and lower-middle income countries.
  • According to the latest WHO estimates, released in December 2016, there were 383 000 deaths due to asthma in 2015.
  • The strongest risk factors for developing asthma are inhaled substances and particles that may provoke allergic reactions or irritate the airways.
  • Medication can control asthma. Avoiding asthma triggers can also reduce the severity of the disease.
  • Appropriate management of asthma can enable people to enjoy a good quality of life.

Tueo Health mobile app will become an Apple one

Tueo Health was developing a mobile app to help manage asthma symptoms in children. The app was connected with commercial breathing sensors, and was supposed to send alerts to parents if a child’s breathing changed during naps or throughout the night.

“We use commercially available sensors to monitor asthmatic children while they sleep. Our technology leverages the data from these sensors to create a personalized baseline for each child,” Teuo co-founder and CEO Bronwyn Harris said of the system. “Alerts are automatically sent to parents when there are deviations from their child’s baseline. These alerts are interactive and informative—we provide contextual information and just-in-time education and support to help them better manage their child’s asthma.”

We might find out more about this deal in just a few days

We will probably find out more details about the app and the Tueo Health deal in just a few days, during the Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference. The company is expected to unveil  updates to its Health app, including a menstrual cycle tracker and a function for tracking your hearing health, so we might just find out more about this deal, which seems to have been finalized in 2018, but only hit the news the event.

The fact Apple has made such a purchase reinforces the company’s concerted investment into health tech in recent years.

Only last month, at the TIME 100 Summit, Apple CEO Tim Cook revealed  the company was “working on a bunch more things” having to do with health monitoring, adding that he thinks “there will be a day that we will look back and say Apple’s greatest contribution to mankind has been in healthcare.”

Apple has been working on more health features for its products

Apple’s efforts to add more health features to its products, especially the Apple Watch, materialized in apps which can perform an electrocardiogram and detect when a user falls, for example.

Apple also intends to revamp its Health app for iPhones, making them able to track menstrual cycles via its iOS 13 update, according to Bloomberg. Apple is expected to announce its new iOS 13 features on June 3rd, at the annual Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference.

Some features, as heart rate and step-tracking apps, are common in many existing fitness wearables. Apple, however has done much more, for instance, the electrocardiogram one can take at home is a really in-depth one, and in case of a fall while wearing the Apple Watch 4, the emergency services are automatically alerted.  While there are a number of third-party iOS apps for monitoring your sleep cycles, we’ve also caught word of plans to make sleep tracking a built-in feature for the Apple Watch.

Apple is only known to have made two other health-care acquisitions, by buying a new one is another clear proof the company invests in healthcare. After Gliimpse, a start-up developing technology to aggregate medical records, in 2016, Apple has bought Beddit, which produces sleep sensors, a year later. Apple has also hired a large number of biosensor and health-related experts to join its teams. Then, in 2018, it seemingly bought Tueo Health, which only means the research for more health related features continues at Apple.

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