Apple device biometric sensors used in cognitive health screening study

Patent filings set out biometric authentication methods for wearables
Apple device biometric sensors used in cognitive health screening study

Biogen is collaborating with Apple on a remote research study to see if the biometric and other sensing capabilities of the Apple Watch and iPhone can help with screening cognitive health and monitoring cognitive performance.

The multi-year study will be launched later in 2021, and allow participants of various ages with varying cognitive performance, and instead of using biomarkers to identify people, will apply Biogen’s neuroscience expertise to developing digital biomarkers for monitoring cognitive performance and spotting early signs of mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

MCI impacts roughly 15 to 20 percent of adults above the age of 65, according to the announcement, and can be an early indicator of some forms of dementia, like Alzheimer’s disease. The often-subtle onset of symptoms can take months or years before it is diagnosed by health care providers.

“Cognitive decline can be an early symptom of neurodegenerative diseases and dementia. The successful development of digital biomarkers in brain health would help address the significant need to accelerate patient diagnoses and empower physicians and individuals to take timely action,” explains Michel Vounatsos, CEO at Biogen. “For healthcare systems, such advancements in cognitive biomarkers from large-scale studies could contribute significantly to prevention and better population-based health outcomes, and lower costs to health systems. Bringing together the best of neuroscience with the best of technology creates a wonderful prospect for patients and public health.”

The virtual study has been designed to preserve consumer privacy and control, and allows participants to end their participation at any time.

Patents describe biometric authentication to Apple Watch and from one device to another

Meanwhile, Apple has had patent filings published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for a “wearable electronic device having a light field camera” and “authenticated device assisted user authentication.”

The light field camera patent describes a biometric authentication system based on vein recognition or recognition of another set of features, like hair follicles, arteries, blood perfusion patterns, or bone shape pattern. Veins and “other significant structures of the forearm near the wrist” are far under the skin, however, so the inventors propose a biomsensor system including a light field camera which beams infrared or other light deep into the user’s forearm.

Apple suggests the system may include a synthetic focusing operation, like tomography, which may involve a hardware accelerator.

The biometric data would be captured by a light field camera filtered by an array of pinholes in the underside of the watch. The invention is intended to address the lack of room for biometric authentication sensors on wearables like watches.

The authenticated device patent involves a logical access system with a user being authenticated to one device through another device. The example given in the filing is the locking or unlocking of a head-mounted wearable, which could be performed through a smart watch, mobile phone or computer.

Authentication through the use of a biometric sensor on any of the above devices is specifically mentioned several times.

The patent filing describes various configurations and ways to determine user intent, as well as how the two or more devices communicate with each other.

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