In short: Google may plan to help smartphone users detect oncoming illnesses earlier with the introduction of headphones that take temperature readings at regular intervals, based on a recently approved patent from the search giant. The WIPO-issued patent describes a pair of either wired or wireless earbuds transmitting that data to a smartphone and used with an application for reminders and historical measurement tracking. The headphones are still defined as being usable for listening to music or other media but also provide audio cues for measurement taking.
Background: Ear-borne health and fitness wearables aren't necessarily anything new but Google appears to be going in a different direction with its own solution. Prior devices have chiefly measured heart rhythms or tracked steps and gait metrics. The solution in question really seems to build on those efforts and the company's own undertaken across a huge variety of medical fields over the past several years. Those have included building new health-related microscopes with AR enhancements, AI solutions for detecting cancer and other diseases, software for digital wellbeing, or health-related enterprise API. More generally, Google has focused efforts away from basic metrics tracking and toward actionable insights into consumer health.
Following in that vein, Google's newest solution appears geared to track figures in pursuit of more general overall well-being. Body temperature readings are extremely useful in detecting immune system responses and identifying likely culprits behind those. Meanwhile, the data being collected by the earbuds won't necessarily only be reviewed by the wearer. At least one patent drawing also shows cloud connectivity being utilized to sync that data with what appears to be a hospital. That would presumably give professional health care providers secure access to the measurements and may also involve a system for generating alerts from across a hospital or clinic's database if abnormalities are detected.
Impact: The newest solution is described as tracking body temperature via earbuds, coupled with smartphone reminders and cloud services linked to health institutions, meant to catch diseases, disorders, or illnesses more rapidly based on an individualized temperature differential. However, the patent description doesn't stop there. Instead, Google intends the patent to cover other in-ear health tracking systems as well. Given the current decline in the wearable industry and assuming the invention would be used in conjunction with convenient reminders, the new technology could spawn an entirely new category of health wearables.