Two Silicon Valley giants will soon be going toe-to-toe in an effort to win over health data tracking app users. Google is launching Google Fit—an innovative health platform that collects data from fitness-tracking tools and health-related apps—to compete with Apple’s HealthKit, which acts as a universal storage space for health information collected from third party apps.
It has been speculated that data from fitness devices will interface with Google’s cloud services, creating a collaborative atmosphere for Google Fit’s users. Similar to Google Fit, Apple’s HealthKit works in conjunction with Apple’s “Health” App to share the app’s data collection with a cloud platform. This health app tracks vital health measurements, for example blood pressure, and informs the user’s doctor if these statistics shift outside a healthy range.
Both of these health platforms are coming at a very good time. Some may recall that Google previously launched a health data tracking app called Google Health in 2008 that was shuttered four years later after a less-than-enthusiastic reception. Part of the reason for the failure might be that the world just wasn’t ready for it yet. User concerns over privacy and sharing health data were more prominent then. Today, the market is more open to data collection with the advancement and growing use of wearable devices. Users want an interactive interface that provides feedback about their health data, what it means and rewards for reaching goals and milestones—something both Google Fit and Apple HealthKit feature (and Google Health didn’t). Simply put, user-generated health data is a hot trend right now—it’s no wonder these two companies want to capitalize on it.
What the future holds for the two apps remains to be seen. Both Google and Apple are speculated to release their own wearables in the near future, which could mean that they are looking to build their own ecosystem to increase their bottom lines by selling more of these rumored watches and their smartphones that connect with them.
If this is true, interoperability will be a huge issue. HealthKit skeptics are worried that Apple may go in the way of usual Apple fashion and be closed off, not working easily with other apps and devices. To make these platforms rich with data that is used by consumers, interoperability with not only wearables, but the broader health and medical industry as a whole, is critical. Data needs to be turned into something meaningful and valuable, and not go the route of Google Health by simply providing a place to store health information from a select few devices and apps.
One major advantage that both of these platforms have is that they have a captive audience. If these two platforms are easily made into native applications on users smartphones devices with a simple upgrade, the chances of getting users to open it just once is extremely high. The first step in patient engagement is awareness—by having native applications on the smartphones, they’ve already got one foot in the door. The next step is opening up these ecosystems for integration with devices and apps to support an interoperable system rather than putting consumers’ health information into another silo.
It’s also worth noting that Samsung has been working on their own set of wearable devices and native applications on Samsung phones. Their S Health app syncs to their Gear Fit wearable fitness tracker along with other fitness devices. While they have a smaller market share, they have been in this business longer and currently have both their Gear Fit device and app out in the market.
While we don’t know what’s to come, we can thank Google and Apple for getting into the game and bringing health data tracking and patient engagement into the spotlight. With these two Silicon Valley giants beginning to focus on the personal health space, it will no doubt drive innovation, especially if these ecosystems are open to integration. Competition does bring innovation.