If you thought that self-tracking and the collection of personal health and fitness metrics was just a fad then an announcement last week by Apple CEO Tim Cook at the annual Apple Worldwide Developers Conference might suggest otherwise. A Health app and a developer tool named HealthKit, which is designed to serve as a hub to allow various health apps and fitness tracking devices to "talk" to one another, have been included in iOS 8. But are these "new" developments from Apple really all that new - and do they indicate that matching hardware in the form of wearables is next on Apple's launch list? What Apple and partners such as the Mayo Clinic envisage is, for example, an app that monitors heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar or cholesterol. It would then be able to seamlessly share data with a hospital app or directly with healthcare professionals. Building a technical infrastructure to develop health apps, or to enable the sharing of information between various third party apps, is an ambitious task. Both Microsoft and Samsung are already entering the field of wearables with announcements of plans to release smart watches. Apple's latest offering adds to the speculation of the long awaited iWatch with reports in could be released as soon as October. Meanwhile the latest advertisement (below) for the iPhone 5S shows people using a variety of wearable products already on the market.The benefits of aggregating health and fitness data in this way are fairly clear in terms of how medical histories will be taken, how they are shared and the aggregation of personal data. It should provide better experience for those who use personal metrics in various aspect of their daily lives.
What's in a brand name?Some of the celebratory hype around HealthKit was overshadowed by an Australian start up which took Apple to task for using the same name of their practice and patient management software. In a blog post the Melbourne-based company was both flattered and annoyed that Apple had used its established brand name:
We might also wonder what other issues Apple's health data aggregation system might face beyond this naming fiasco. When a user opens any of Apple's HealthKit enabled apps the information they produce will be housed in database and is immutable and read-only. What this means for developers is that apps can be developed which can collect and analyse this data in a variety of pre-determined ways.
They didn't feel that they had to do a quick domain search - it would have taken 5 seconds to type www.healthkit.com into their browser and discover us. Would it have made any difference to them? Are they so big that they are above doing an ordinary Google search?