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Tech giant Apple has been employing a bold strategy to keep one of its top-selling products, the Apple Watch, head and shoulders above the competition: it has been studying and tracking how Apple employees go about exercising for the last two years.

Currently, Fitbit has a 22.5% share of the market, with Apple garnering 10.7% for third place after Xiaomi. In terms of smart watches alone, Apple has the biggest market share.

The Apple Watch was released in 2014. In 2015, Apple started testing other features and algorithms to make it more than an ordinary smart watch. They did all the testing and activity-tracking in a non-descript old building at the Cupertino campus in California. From the outside, the building does not look like much, however, once inside, there is no mistaking that this is a very high-tech facility, especially for a fitness center.

Apple employees volunteer to exercise at this facility to provide data for the Apple Watch developments and upgrades. These are regular people from all across the spectrum of human build and body types. They engage in exercise activities including swimming, running, and other typical gym activities. While the employees work out, they are strapped to high-tech monitors to measure their breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, how much oxygen they breathe in, and how much carbon dioxide they exhale. They also sometimes take a bike ride outside of the facility with their mask-like monitoring equipment.

Improving Health Tracking With the Apple Watch

Since it was created, the facility has collected data from volunteers both exercising and at rest, which has been used by developers to improve the Watch’s algorithms and features. The developers have given the assurance that the personal data on the Watch is not being uploaded to Apple servers. This would explain the need for having its own test subjects. Personal health information in servers can be a big security risk. Instead, the personal health data is stored in the Watch itself.

A swimmer with an Apple Watch.

According to Jay Blahnik, the director of fitness for health technologies for Apple, the facility has collected more biometric information than any other research arm. Apple purchased more than 50 metabolic carts, which are used to measure oxygen consumption. They are the single largest buyer of these machines. Half of the machines are portable and can be used for testing volunteers as they ride a bike or swim. When volunteers bike, there is also a security guard who bikes with them.

The facility has an endless pool where insight on swimming is used as well. There are other rooms or chambers in the building which simulate other environmental conditions like atmospheric pressure, temperature and humidity. All kinds of activities are tested on these different environments. Beside the basic vital signs monitoring, Apple is working on other initiatives, including the ability to read the blood sugar levels in real-time.

The latest Apple Watch features would include wireless data links to an Apple Watch OS 4 compatible treadmill. The research at the gym will all go to further improvements on features aimed at the wearables market.

Currently, Fitbit has a 22.5% share of the market, with Apple garnering 10.7% for third place after Xiaomi. In terms of smart watches alone, Apple has the biggest market share.

Apple has been known for its secrecy in developing products as well as in its plans for the future. The secret gym and the studies they do there are part of the culture of the company. It should be no surprise that they have thrown a lot of money and resources at the Apple Watch and they are putting all of their research results gathered from the gym into further improving the usability of this wearable.

When it was first launched, the Apple Watch sold about 1.5 million watches. This was followed by sales of 200,000 units a day, Marketwatch reported. The technology is being tweaked to move from simple fitness tracking to actual healthcare. Apple is said to be creating a smart watch that can monitor the blood glucose levels of diabetics in a non-invasive manner.

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