The tech giant on Monday announced Health, a new app for its upcoming mobile operating system that compiles several popular measurements related to workouts and diets, including information from third-party apps, such as those from Nike and Fitbit. This upcoming aggregation app is similar to Apple's current Passbook app that lets iPhone users gather items such as movie tickets, coupons, and boarding passes all in one place.
On the developer side of things, iOS 8’s Health Kit allows these health and fitness apps to work together to create a “composite profile of your activity and health,” Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, said in the keynote event for the annual Worldwide Developer’s Conference (WWDC) on Monday in San Francisco.
Apple has also partnered with the nonprofit organization the Mayo Clinic to allow users to share medical data with healthcare professionals, potentially revolutionizing the way patients communicate with doctors.
But fitness and wellness apps are by no means new. Popular examples include GymPact, an app that awards users actual money for fulfilling workout goals and subtracts money for failing to meet the goals people make for themselves; and Cody, which allows users to log workouts, share data with friends, and even receive advice from a digital workout coach.
Perhaps the most popular blending of smart phones and exercise data is the Nike+ FuelBand, a sleek wristband designed to track and record users’ workout activities. However, The Verge reported in April that Nike will be stepping aside to let other companies design a new generation of health devices. Given that Apple touted its partnership with Nike on Health and HealthKit, it is possible that Apple is paving the way for a new, separate device that would also record users’ exercise data. Possibly the much-rumored iWatch?
As analysts have noted, with the release of iOS 8, Apple has made clear its intention to be a one-stop shop for the mobile fitness world.
In a statement issued after the WWDC keynote, Apple stated that “iOS 8 offers developers the ability for health and fitness apps to communicate with each other. With your permission, each app can use specific information from other apps to provide a more comprehensive way to manage your health and fitness. For example, the Nike+ apps using NikeFuel will be able to pull in other key HealthKit metrics such as sleep and nutrition to build a customer user profile and improve athletic performance.”
Still, the fact that users’ information will be shared with other apps, devices, and healthcare professionals raises clear questions of privacy. Nevertheless, as Mr. Federighi noted in his speech Monday, Apple is pairing its rollout of Health with a careful effort to assuage privacy concerns.
“We carefully protect your privacy so you have total control over which applications have access to which part of your health care information,” Federighi said.