When we think of the Apple Watch and similar devices we often think of fitness trackers, text notifications, calendar alerts and other trivial extensions of our phones. But the real value of these devices will emerge once they provide us with truly remarkable experiences. Could all natural birth control be one of them?
The idea of a watch as a viable contraception alternative may seem outrageous at first but it’s not as crazy it sounds. The method of contraception is obviously not physical, surgical or hormonal but rather mathematical in nature, as it pinpoints the exact days in a woman’s cycle in which she’s not fertile. It turns out there’s a direct correlation between a woman’s basal body temperature (lowest body temp during rest) and menstrual cycle phases; during ovulating, basal body temperature tends to rise. A Swedish company called NaturalCycles has created an algorithm that has successfully pinpointed that correlation and claims a 99% pregnancy prevention rate. Their current process is simple but burdensome at best- every morning the user logs her temperature into the app which then in turn tracks cycle phases and fertility status. But tracking your temperature every morning is the equivalent of taking a daily pill in terms of responsibility and hassle... no good.
This is where wearables kick in- the Basis Peak already measures skin temperature and with Apple’s interest in fitness tracking along with allegation that they have been testing more advanced sensors, it’s fairly rational to expect the incorporation of a skin thermometer in future generations of the Apple Watch. Although skin temperature differs from basal body temperature, companies like TempDrop have already solved for the discrepancy. It’s not a stretch to imagine a future where women receive notifications ahead of time, alerting them of their non-fertile days with a stunning accuracy; and on the opposite end of the spectrum- notifications when they are most likely to conceive.
As awesome as it would be for Planned Parenthood to start handing out Apple Watches instead of Trojans even if/when wearables become a reliable method of contraception via natural means, condoms and birth control are not going anywhere as they have significant advantages: affordability, frequency of use (women only have a few non-fertile days per month) and most importantly- battery life. But that’s not the point…
The point is that wearable computers are a new type of devices with their own unique features which allow new possibilities; they are a new set of tools to solve problems and craft experiences. We need to explore all the fascinating things we can create with access to our body movements, sleep patterns, skin temperature, perspiration levels and heart rates as opposed to porting over miniaturized versions of smartphone apps to our wrists. Although I’m sure a few will prove useful, I can’t think of situation where I’d check Instagram or reply to an email on my watch. The true mark of success for wearables will be when they offer a killer app that is independent of our phones. When they provide value to our lives that is otherwise unobtainable via smartphones alone.