REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

In its latest move to edge deeper into healthcare, Apple snapped up California-based digital health startup Tueo Health, which helps parents track their children’s asthma symptoms while they’re asleep, according to CNBC. Apple isn’t timid when it comes to acquisitions: It buys a company every two to three weeks — but it’s only ever picked up two digital health startups. Its purchase of Tueo Health after a two years-long digital health acquisition hiatus hints that the tech giant’s flexing its M&A muscles to ramp up its health play — and affirms our prediction that Apple would make a digital health acquisition this year.

Here’s what it means: Tueo Health joins a small rank of health data companies that Apple’s purchased.

  • Tueo Health offers Apple new capabilities in the lucrative asthma tracking market. Tueo Health — which has remained largely mum since it roped in just over $1 million in seed funding in 2017 — was developing tech that links an under-the-mattress sensor system for children with asthma to a mobile app that alerts parents of any breathing-related issues that arise at night. Apple was likely eyeing the digital asthma management company because its product had a good chance of taking off: The global intelligent asthma monitoring market is expected to hit $655 million by 2025 — a huge leap from its $20 million valuation in 2017, according to Allied Market Research.
  • Apple scooped up device maker Beddit in May 2017 in a clear move into sleep monitoring. Beddit developed a device that keeps tabs of users’ movement while they’re asleep. Apple likely tapped sleep tracking a growth pillar given that 45% of US adults in 2017 “could imagine” using a sleep tracker.
  • And Apple acquired health data startup Gliimpse in August 2016. Gliimpse — which targets patients with chronic conditions — offers a consumer-facing platform to combine a user’s personal health data from labs, hospitals, and pharmacies into one shareable report. Apple bought Gliimpse to help turn the iPhone into a repository for consumers’ medical records, helping Apple shoulder into the health records market, per CNBC.

The bigger picture: Apple’s latest acquisition supports its efforts to build out its health-tracking capabilities to entice healthcare partners.

  • Tueo Health’s tech could boost Apple’s reported nighttime health tracking system. Tueo Health’s under-the-mattress sensors sound uncannily similar to the in-bed health tracking system that Apple outlined in a recent patent. And asthma was something the tech giant pinned as a condition the health tracking system could help manage. Its purchase of Tueo Health — and its access to the tech that makes its asthma tracking system tick — could accelerate the development of a health tracking system, and might reveal that Apple’s pegging asthma management as an area to hone its efforts.
  • And Apple could use the acquisition to forge new ties with health organizations that want access to valuable sleep data. If Apple can integrate Tueo Health’s solution into its smartphone-based personal medical records hub Health Records, pediatric-focused firms might want to join the horde of hospitals that’ve been flocking to implement it. The tech could provide a fuller picture of how patients are faring at night, which could steer doctors toward the most effective treatment options. This could be a balm to hospitals that are likely racing to get a handle on asthma, which costs the US $56 billion annually: Over 8% of children — or 6 million total — in the US suffer from asthma, and that number will likely climb, per the AAFA.