Why Apple wants to know when you are sleeping

Apple (AAPL) recently made an unusual hire: sleep expert Roy J.E.M Raymann, who also specializes in wearable computers. The tech media's take is that the company has recruited him to work on its long-awaited iWatch.

The thought is that Apple plans to come out with a wearable computer -- something in curved glass that fits on a wrist -- that would run fitness monitoring software that, among other things, tracks people's sleep patterns. Apple CEO Tim Cook has stoked the rumor mill by dropping hints about entering new product categories

 There are obvious reasons why Apple might take the plunge in wearable computing. For one, Apple shares have declined this year as investor worry about the company's ability to innovate and add new revenue lines. More than half of the company's revenue comes from iPhone sales, with iPads providing 18 percent and Macs 13 percent. As product lines mature, new ones are necessary to keep the company growing.

 Meanwhile, Apple competitors like Google (GOOG) and Samsung are already commercializing Internet-enabled glasses and watches.

But even more compelling for Apple is a product that, like the company's other gear, lets it become even more embedded in people's lives. To that end, Apple also has eyed the home automation market for years, according to patents it has filed. The company literally wants to automate everything, from media players to hot tubs.

That moves far beyond the areas of personal computing, telecommunications and entertainment. The idea is to make Apple's products and software indispensable to daily life.

Then there was the company's "lifestyle companion" patent application in 2011:

The lifestyle companion system can integrate user-selectable plug-in modules that are focused on specialized topics. For example, plug-in modules can be specialized for particular periods in a child's development, students, expectant parents, new parents, seniors, specific sports enthusiasts, food connoisseurs, geographical regions, health conditions, holidays, etc. Each module can have coordinating questionnaires, suggested activities, suggested references, instructions, logging tools, audiobooks, videos, podcasts and other types of activities or information tailored for the specialty of the module.

The patent, in the context of Apple's business strategy, suggests that the company wants to establish the following sales pattern:

  1. Sell a consumer on one device.
  2. Provide services or content that the consumer wants.
  3. Suggest additional services or content that the consumer might also want.
  4. Make it necessary to buy something else from Apple to retain the content or services in a convenient way in another setting.
In other words, the more integral Apple is to customers' lives, the easier it is for the company to grow. Instead of being trapped in the what-device-have-you-invented-today expectation of investors, Cook wants to move the company into an ongoing relationship with consumers.
  • Erik Sherman On Twitter» On Facebook»

    Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.

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