Thursday 17 August 2017

Key Apple health tech executive leaves company after six months

Yoky Matsuoka has left Apple Photo: AP
Yoky Matsuoka has left Apple Photo: AP

Mark Gurman

Yoky Matsuoka, who joined Apple in May as an executive to help run health technology initiatives, has left the iPhone maker, according to people familiar with the matter.

Matsuoka was hired to lead teams involved with the company's HealthKit tracking software, the CareKit tool for managing patient medical care, the ResearchKit framework for conducting medical studies via Apple devices, and related machine learning algorithms. She reported to Jeff Williams, Apple's chief operating officer, who also runs the teams related to the Apple Watch, health research, and fitness applications.

Before joining Apple, Matsuoka led technology efforts as a vice president at Google parent Alphabet's Nest Labs. She is credited with developing the technology that helps Nest thermostats automatically adapt to things like environmental conditions and past usage. Matsuoka was a pioneer in robotics, having helped invent a lifelike robotic hand. She is also a co-founder of Google X, the lab that produced Google Glass.

In recent years, Apple has poured significant resources into machine learning, software that allows computers to analyse and adapt to new data without being explicitly programmed, across its product lines while promoting health and fitness with multiple devices.

The company has stocked its health teams with industry experts since before announcing the Apple Watch in 2014. Michael O'Reilly, an Apple vice president in charge of medical research and related technologies, was formerly the chief medical officer at health technology firm Masimo.

In 2013, Apple hired Jay Blahnik, a famed fitness instructor and Nike consultant, as a director of the company's fitness applications.

Apple is working to expand the iPhone's health-tracking software into a diagnostic tool, Bloomberg News reported in September.

The company's current application is a repository of data rather than a tool that can analyze and make recommendations based on the information.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook referenced this ambition at Startup Fest Europe in May by comparing the human body to a car.

"If you need an oil change, it comes on and says check the oil," Cook said. "It has all of these things in it that alert you that you need to do something. What is the equivalent for the body?"

Apple met with Food and Drug Administration officials this year to discuss future cardiac-related devices and diagnosis applications, according to e-mails obtained by MobiHealthNews through the Freedom of Information Act.

O'Reilly told the FDA that Apple is developing "several projects that will be of interest" to the agency, MobiHealthNews reported.

Other notable Apple departures this year include online retail vice president Bob Kupbens, global marketing vice president Hiroki Asai, and managers on Apple's autonomous car project.

Matsuoka didn't reply to an e-mail requesting comment. An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment.

Bloomberg

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