Apple wants its devices to save your life, but it still has work to do

Apple wants its devices to save your life, but it still has work to do

Apple wants its devices to save your life, but it still has work to do

Apple (AAPL) doesn’t just want your iPhone or new smartwatch to look great, they want the device to have the ability to save your life.

That was the tone of the “Far Out” event on September 7, which the company held at its Cupertino, California headquarters. The event showcased new Apple products, including the iPhone 14, new AirPods and the highly anticipated Apple Watch Ultra.

The presentation, initiated by CEO Tim Cook, was conducted with the Apple Watch and a kaleidoscope of stories about how Apple claims to have saved users’ lives. One user described how his watch allowed him to get help in the midst of an accident at work, while another talked about how the watch detected a heart condition in his friend just in time to cure him.

If the company drove with its purported life-saving abilities, privacy underpinned the presentation at all times. During the event, we saw interludes where executives pondered how important privacy is to Apple, particularly when it comes to the data the iPhone and Apple Watch collect on reproductive health in post-Roe America. Arguably, Apple’s biggest privacy move so far came last year, when it gave users the opportunity to disable apps that tracked their activity.

“Apple does a lot when it comes to privacy,” said Vittorio Bertocci, Okta’s principal architect.

However, it seems Apple wants even more credibility. The company has apparently set out to communicate its highest calling, its desire to be the most trusted name and lifeguard in Big Tech. But that doesn’t mean the path to follow is simple. While Apple has achieved a lot so far – including privacy, experts say – the company still has a long way to go when it comes to making all of its life-saving dreams a reality.

The new Apple Watch Ultra is shown during a new product launch event at Apple Park in Cupertino, California on September 7, 2022. - Apple unveiled several new products including a new iPhone 14 and 14 Pro, three Apple Watches and the new AirPod Pro at the event.  (Photo by Brittany Hosea-Small / AFP) (Photo by BRITTANY HOSEA-SMALL / AFP via Getty Images)

The new Apple Watch Ultra is shown during a new product launch event at Apple Park in Cupertino, California on September 7, 2022. – (Photo by Brittany Hosea-Small / AFP) (Photo by BRITTANY HOSEA-SMALL / AFP via Getty Images)

Walking the line

Take, for example, the iPhone 14’s Emergency SOS feature, which won’t be robust for years, Raymond James analyst Ric Prentiss said. The feature, in which consumers can send emergency messages via satellite even if they are in a remote area, requires substantial satellite infrastructure that is simply not yet in place.

“From our point of view, we expected short and explosive SOS communications,” he told Yahoo Finance. “The new constellation of satellites that will make this possible will not be fully available until 2025. So, you will launch the product in the US and Canada, but it will not be fully where you want it to be for a while.”

As Apple seeks to make Emergency SOS via satellite a full-fledged reality in the coming years, regulators like the Federal Communications Commission and the International Telecom Union will also need to step in, Prentiss added.

In addition to emergency SOS, Apple is also proposing the health features of the Apple Watch as potentially life-saving. For example, you can do an EKG with your Apple Watch, allowing you to check for atrial fibrillation. A 2020 study conducted by Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Clinic suggests these results are accurate about a third of the time, although, of course, this feature may have gotten more accurate since that study.

As Apple pushes to increase the life-saving capabilities of its products, there is one area that appears to have worked well so far: digital security and privacy. The company has so far avoided being included among privacy failures and the ire of Big Tech’s most scandalous regulators. The same wasn’t true of some of Big Tech’s other top names. Recently, Meta Platforms (META) was fined $ 400 million by Irish regulators for failing to protect children’s data on Instagram.

SHANGHAI, CHINA - AUGUST 29, 2022 - An Apple store was seen in Shanghai, China on August 29, 2022. Apple announced a

SHANGHAI, CHINA – AUGUST 29, 2022 – An Apple store was seen in Shanghai, China on August 29, 2022. Apple announced a special “Far Out” event on September 8 at 1:00 am Beijing time. The online launch event is expected to bring new products such as iPhone 14 / Pro Series and Apple Watch Series 8, as well as the launch of the official version of iOS 16. (Photo credit should be CFOTO / Future Publishing via Getty Images)

According to Vuk Janosevic, CEO of Blindnet, a data privacy software startup, the nature of how consumers interact with Apple products helps the company’s privacy efforts and we should continue to see it, even if the company begins to delve into our physical lives.

“It’s easy to see this relationship between the product and the user in real time – iPhones regularly ask for consent when collecting and managing sensitive user data,” Janosevic said. “They then pass that decision on to apps running on his system to ensure that a user’s decision about their data is consistent across the device.”

From here, Apple is walking a tightrope, having to preserve its reputation as Big Tech’s leading authority on privacy while pursuing its vision of creating products that know where you are and how you are, so they can, if necessary, save your life.

Allie Garfinkle is a senior technical reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter at @agarfinks.

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