Apple is no stranger to the chips business. Its W2 wireless coprocessor manages Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity on the Apple Watch Series 3, and its T2 wafer handles encryption, voice recognition, audio, and image processing in the latest-generation MacBook Pro. But according to CNBC, Apple is turning its attention to a new area of semiconductor research: biometric analysis.
In a report published today, CNBC uncovered job postings from Apple’s Health Sensing hardware team that hint at a custom processor for health data management. “We are looking for sensor ASIC architects to help develop ASICs for new sensors and sensing systems for future Apple products,” one reads. “We have openings for analog as well as digital ASIC architects.”
Two previous listings — one in June and one posted earlier this month — sought engineers with expertise in “health, wellness, [optical,] and fitness” sensors.
In July, Ming-Chi Kuo, an Apple analyst with a reliable track record, said that upcoming Apple Watch models would boast better battery life and heart rate detection. It’s unclear, though, whether those improvements are the result of architectural changes.
Apple doesn’t design all of the system-on-chips at the core of its products — it sources integrated circuits from Broadcom and processors from Intel, for example. But in recent years, the Cupertino company has taken steps to move much of its chip design in-house. In April 2017, it announced it would stop licensing graphics chips from Imagination Technologies. And in September, alongside the iPhone X and iPhone 8, it unveiled the A11 Bionic, a chip with a dedicated “neural engine” that accelerates depth data processing and other tasks.
Furthermore, rumors persist that Apple plans to move away from Intel’s architecture in favor of an ARM-based computer processor, the architecture that underlies the custom-designed A-series chips in the iPhone, iPad, HomePod, and Apple TV. Apple’s also reportedly developing proprietary power management chips for use in smartphones and other devices.