Apple Watch is a great fitness tracker that, with the right app, can even track your sleep patterns so it’s a bit unusual that Apple doesn’t offer its own sleep-tracking functionality in the watchOS software. But as indicated by a new patent application published yesterday, it looks like the Cupertino company could be researching sleep monitoring hardware of its own.

Originally filed for on May 22, Apple’s patent application for a “multi-element piezo sensor for in-bed physiological measurements” outlines a hardware solution that would use a bunch of dedicated sensors for physiological measurements. Laid on top of a bed, such a device would track a user’s movements reliably throughout their sleep cycle.

“The sensors can be multi-element piezo sensors capable of generating multiple electrical signals, whereby the monitoring systems can receive the multiple electrical signals to analyze the user’s vital signs along multiple regions of the user’s body,” reads the patent abstract.

Some embodiments of the piezo sensor mention one or more corrugations, such as “peaks” and “valleys”, in oder to create localized regions with increased mechanical response to force. The disturbances of these areas would generate electrical signals.

Apple’s proposed sleep-tracking solution could be realized either as a thin strip that would be laid on top where a user’s chest is positioned or as a grid of sensors covering the entire bed.

AppleInsider explains:

While larger overall, the larger number of monitored sections can allow for other elements to be sensed, such as the way the body lies on the bed, and if there are any particularly heavy spots where there is more pressure on the bed than typical.

Apple last year bought a sleep-tracking startup, called Beddit.

The Cupertino giant even sells the Beddit 3 sleep-tracking sensor strip on its webstore. The $150 accessory is thin, flexible and completely ambient so there’s no need to wear or charge it.

Beddit 3 sleep-tracking accessory

It works in tandem with an iPhone app that helps you achieve better sleep by sensing and automatically tracking when you lie down on the bed. The device collects and analyzes a plethora of sleep-related data such as sleep time and efficiency, heart rate, respiration, temperature, movement, snoring, room temperature and room humidity.

It’s unclear if this patent application is related to the current Beddit technology but this certainly is not the only patent Apple has filed in terms of sleep tacking.

Which leads me to my question of the day: could a dedicated Apple-branded sleep-tracking accessory be cooking in Jony Ive & Co.’s laboratory ?

Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below.