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Apple (AAPL), Biogen to Track Cognitive Health via Wearables

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Zacks Equity Research
·4 min read
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Apple AAPL is partnering with biotech company Biogen BIIB on a virtual research study to test the value of health wearables in monitoring long-term cognitive performance and to spot early signs of mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

The multi-year observational research study, to be launched later this year, aims to determine whether the Apple Watch and iPhone can collect and transmit biometric data on cognitive performance.

Its success will aid researchers to develop digital biomarkers using wearables like smartwatches, fitness bands and sensor-embedded clothing that would help care providers and patients detect early signs of dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease and other health concerns.

Markedly, about 15-20% of adults aged 65 years or older experience MCI. According to report from National Institute of Aging, 80% of those who meet the definition of amnestic MCI (where memory is significantly impaired) will develop Alzheimer's disease within seven years.

The study is designed to ensure consumer privacy, control, and transparency, with a focus on data security.

Expanding Healthcare Offerings to Drive Prospects

Apple’s shares have soared 62.8% in the past year, outperforming the S&P 500’s gain of 17.4%. The solid adoption of Apple Watch Series 6, which features a blood oxygen sensor with additional healthcare and fitness features like Cycle Tracking, the Noise app and Activity Trends, has helped the iPhone maker strengthen its presence in the personal health monitor space.

One Year Performance

Markedly, the Apple Watch has been used for a number of health studies including a hearing study monitoring ambient sound volumes, conducted through the Research app.

Last month, the company launched Fitness+ subscription services built for Apple Watch. Fitness+ tracks health and workout-related data from Apple Watch that users can view on their iPhones, iPads, or Apple TVs.

Markedly, Apple Fitness+ workouts include cycling, treadmill, rowing, HIIT, strength, yoga, dance, core and mindful cooldown. Each will be accompanied by music curated by trainers.

In October, the iPhone-maker announced the availability of the Health Records feature within the Health app for users in the United Kingdom and Canada. The feature helps users view and store their medical records on their iPhone’s secured environment without compromising privacy.

Also, with the help of watchOS 7, Apple Watch uses multiple sensors, which comprise optical heart sensor, GPS, and accelerometer to monitor the cardio health of the users and notify them if it falls to lower levels.

Wearables Market Well Poised for 2021

The spread of coronavirus has affected user spending on wearable devices. Nevertheless, the demand for wearables, particularly smartwatches and ear-worn devices, is expected to remain strong in 2021. Per Gartner’s projections, global user spending on wearable devices will increase 22% year over year to $62.9 billion in 2021.

Notably, per IDC’s latest report, global shipments of wearables grew 35.1% year over year to 125 million in the third quarter of 2020.

Apple continues to dominate the wearables market (by shipment volume) with 33.1% share in third-quarter 2020. Xiaomi, Huawei, Samsung and Fitbit FIT trail with 13.6%, 11%, 9% and 2.6% market share, respectively.

This Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) company’s Wearables, Home and Accessories segment, which includes Apple Watch, reported revenues of $7.88 billion, up 20.8% year over year in fourth-quarter fiscal 2020, primarily driven by significant momentum in Apple Watch. Moreover, more than 75% of customers who purchased Apple Watch during the fourth quarter were first-time customers. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

However, intensifying competition from the likes of Amazon, Fitbit, Garmin GRMN, and Samsung could hurt Apple’s position in the wearables market in the long run.

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