Four industries Apple is set to disrupt

Though Apple tends to focus on the consumer aspects of its devices and software, the new iPhones and Apple Watch unveiled this week could shake up everything from healthcare to retail and even media.

Apple iPhone XR > Three finishes [Blue/Black/White]
Apple

Apple’s event this week was all about its new iPhones, which go on sale Sept. 21, and the Apple Watch Series 4. The focus, as is usually the case with Apple, centered largely around consumer uses – health tracking, photography, performance, the incredible new OLED screens and the “Liquid Retina” display of the less-expensive iPhone Xr. The on-stage demos centered on audio, still images, video and gaming. 

Though the hardware improvements will no doubt be important to business users, there was essentially no discussion of enterprise use cases for the devices. And yet they will disrupt multiple industries. In some cases, this disruption will be a continuation of the impact that Apple has already had or re-disruption of industries Apple has already significantly transformed. 

Here are four industries that will see their processes, focus, and business models changed as Apple presses forward.

Healthcare

Apple has disrupted healthcare repeatedly during the past decade. The company’s presence was first felt with the introduction of the iPad. Almost immediately, doctors, surgeons and other healthcare professionals saw the value in the tablet as an ideal tool for helping them communicate information to patients and colleagues. 

Apple has very clearly focused on healthcare as an industry it wants a piece of and it has steadily built a team of healthcare experts, most notably around medical devices who know how to work with regulators, researchers and healthcare IT. With the introduction of HealthKit, ResearchKit, and CareKit, Apple has been at the forefront of unlocking our personal health data and sharing it with care teams, researchers and even first responders. 

Some of the broadest health studies ever conducted have been done using ResearchKit. iPhones and Apple Watches make it possible to contact emergency services and caregivers in seconds, they provide key information about us using the emergency medical information card that can be accessed on an iPhone – even when the phone is locked. And increasingly they alert us to signs of danger and disease that might otherwise go unnoticed.

Apple is not slowing its disruption of healthcare; it’s just getting started. The announcement of fall detection, complete with understanding different types of falls, is a major improvement that Apple highlighted this week. 

Much more significant is the revamped heart sensor that can not only alert us to danger that can be easily missed by doctors, something I’ve personally experienced this summer, but now the device can perform a one-lead ECG in a matter of seconds. This is an incredible advance for any device and it will be able to provide important information to cardiologists, primary care doctors, and emergency care. Even more amazing is that Apple was able to thread the needle of regulatory approval in the US. Although companies like AliveCor have been working to bring similar solutions to market (AliveCor’s original breakthrough product was an iPhone case that offered similar capabilities but needed to be placed on a patient’s chest). 

Apple is also known to be investigating other abilities in this direction including blood pressure and non-invasive blood glucose monitoring. I won’t go so far as as to suggest that Apple will ever displace medical equipment in hospitals or other care venues - the Apple Watch can’t do a multi-lead ECG - but the company is looking to augment those abilities by enabling tracking in non-clinical settings. This will provide a lot of information that today isn’t possible to capture easily over the long term. That doesn’t just mean more data, but more real-world data, an important distinction because studies have shown that about on quarter of patients have elevated markers like heart rate and blood pressure in a doctor’s office or hospital due to anxiety about being in a clinic. 

Apple is clearly intent on providing this data to user and doctors and incorporating kew contextual data such as time, location, and activity information. As far as getting this data into the hands of doctors, Apple has already taken on that challenge with the ability to interact with healthcare provider information systems.

Graphics, media, and marketing

One of the points Apple continues to drive home is power of the iPhone camera. The company highlights a great variety of photos shot on iPhone as part of it’s overall marketing message about the device and has done so for years now. Beginning last year, the company also began hammering home the power of not just the hardware of its cameras, but also the power of its processors and machine learning capabilities to get the perfect shot. Apple bills the iPhone as being equivalent to pro-level DSLRs while retaining an important simplicity in using that power.

This approach pairs with iOS becoming an image and video editing platform in its own right - Adobe, long considered the leading name in photography and design, has brought an increasing number of its pro software to iOS, including Illustrator and Photoshop. This means that graphics and media professionals can accomplish an ever-increasing amount of work on Apple’s premier phones as well as the iPad Pro. This trend combined with the notion that the best camera for any job is the one you have with you when you need it, is opening up the power of truly mobile photography, videography and design. With editing that used to rely on studios populated with powerful devices and desktops now in the palm of the hand, shooting, editing, and posting - or preparing for print - can happen in the field in almost real time.

This has implications for these creative fields, but it also has great potential for marketing. As marketing moves from its print root to incorporate social media, brand management, events, and live streaming, the iPhone is supporting this evolution by allowing for complex workflows to be done in seconds out in the field. It allows marketing teams to engage in real time with events, social trends, and the array of slice of life moments that can open entire new markets, clients, and the public in new ways. It allows crisp and polished results to be made from photos and video in minutes or even seconds and that means generating tons of new content at a moment’s notice. Coupled with social media, a marketing pro can nurture a campaign from anywhere, generate leads from any event, and engage with customers. 

This gives marketing agencies and departments an ability to have the leanness of a startup. It allows startup to deliver highly professional results that typically require a larger graphics and media operation. This flattening of the playing field will have enormous impact at both ends of the spectrum. Great content, live, and matched with the right message or hashtag all from the exhibit floor so to speak. It also Men’s being able to catch and catapult organic trends into going viral in a way that has often been more art and luck than science and intention. 

As with healthcare, we’re still in the first or second inning of where this disruption will lead. Unlike healthcare, where there is a somewhat steady goal line, the evolving nature of these professions and the new generation of technology being defined almost every year means that this will be an ongoing disruptive experiment.

Journalism and real-time reporting

The same power that the iPhone continues to put in the hands of marketing professionals also fits perfectly in the hands of reporters who can now shoot, edit, and publish in minutes what until now could take hours. The Internet, smartphones, and blogging and social media have been powerful forces in the media world for decades now, but in many cases, the resources have remained somewhat siloed. Video from a mobile phone has been available to journalism for ages now, but it has also been considered less valuable than footage shot with a crew and producer. Until recently, this has made perfect sense. The actual image, video, and sound quality has been sub-par. Connectivity has posed challenges. And editing has been relegated to home base under the watchful eye of a producer. 

This formula and the workflow it has required has begun to shift a little in recent years, but the limitations of existing hardware and software on mobile devices has kept it largely intact. With the easy to use and edit capabilities that the new iPhones (and mobile devices across the board) and increasing presence of tools that are considered professional grade, journalists and bloggers have begun to take some of that power into their own hands, literally. This offers explosive potential for getting content in difficult to access environments and to turn that raw content into polished product as well as to post, stream, or deliver right then and there as news is happening. Not only is this explosive in terms of the timeliness and quality, the iPhone’s cost is low in comparison to the gear and team members that have traditionally been required. 

Retail

One of the first AR companies highlighted by Apple with the introduction of ARKit last year was IKEA. The furniture retailer made use of the technology to make it easier for its customers to be able to accurately visualize how pieces of furniture will look in their homes. As retail has shifted online, the ability to accurately visualize products from home has been a growing need. This is particularly true given that many folks find it difficult to judge objects based solely on their mathematical dimensions or accurately assess color depending on the light in a photo and the light in their environment. 

AR provides a solution, especially when its pared with smart color displays such as the ones used in iOS devices. Apple makes that solution easy to access. While redecorating a room is one very obvious application of this approach, it really scratches the surface of how AR can be used in retail. 

One of the biggest trends today in retail is subscription services that deliver a monthly package containing items that a company thinks will delight or otherwise be of use to consumers. Although these services started with companies like Blue Apron that make it easier to make meals at home, the approach now runs the gamut from outerwear to razors to undergarments and even home decor. All of these companies rely on data and analytics to bring trends and analyze our appreciation (or lack of) to determine what to send next month. Being highly data driven, the new iPhones allow us to send detailed measurements, esthetics, and other information back to companies. 

A handy AR compatible device and the right algorithms can help tailor what receive beginning when we initially sign up for a service. That could the measurements of our homes, of our bodies, or anything else. Going beyond simply picturing a how a specific IKEA chair will look in our living room, for example, if we send a furniture company AR information including measurements of our space, the existing pieces in it, and the colors of the walls, carpet, and artwork, a company can pull items tailor fit for our rooms or suggest pieces that we’re “missing” in a way that no catalog - electronic or otherwise - can offer. A picture of our bathroom counter can deliver suggestions for towels, bath mats, soaps, skin lotion, toothbrush holders, or shower curtains. The effect is have a virtual designer working with us at every step in the process. 

Similarly a razor or men’s bath item subscription can use the the same photo of that counter along with a selfie to determine specific razors, shave cream, cologne, and suggested haircut or beard trim. A photo of our closet can determine clothing suggestions and even closet organizing systems. What we’re really talking about is the ability to turn our phone into our personal shopper by allowing an app, or collection of apps, to peak inside our home. We get an integrated set of items that are much more likely to fit us that browsing a website or visiting a store. 

Although these are only four industries, the sheer volume of disruption across them is extreme and touches virtually every section of our lives. Where many people wondered if Apple could remain a potent and disruptive force after the death of Jobs, Apple in 2018 has proved that it can and will remain a technological disruptor for years to come. 

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