This post was originally published on Mashable.
Apple has marked its first steps into the health and fitness-tracking market with the introduction of its new Health app for iOS, which will debut to iPhone owners this fall.
Although Apple mentioned daily tracking capabilities and partnerships with companies like Nike and the Mayo Clinic, there wasn't anything revolutionary included in the announcement (which was already slim on details) that isn't on the market now.
But that's not to say something big isn't coming. Apple is likely just getting started.
"The app is a good move for Apple because anything that can simplify healthcare is smart, but what they did today was just make an entrance into the space," said Skip Snow, a healthcare analyst at Forrester Research. "There are many apps out there that already offer what they plan to do, but we know there's a lot more to come."
Snow is largely referring to the much-anticipated iWatch that's rumoured to debut later this year. By integrating its Health app software with a wearable device, it could become a true power player in the category.
Right now, the Health app concept is similar to Apple's Passbook app, the iPhone's virtual pocket for things like airline boarding passes, movie tickets and coupons. It will be able to pull in data from other third-party apps such as Nike to keep all your health-related information in one hub.
Apple's Craig Federighi, senior VP of software at Apple, said that apps can now track “everything from monitoring your activity level, to your weight, to chronic medical conditions like blood pressure and diabetes.”
“But right now that information lives in silos," he added.
What it means
It might not seem like it now, but the Health app has the potential to make a big impact on the mobile health industry.
“Apple’s announcement of its Health app and HealthKit is a significant step forward for mobile health," Daniel Matte, an analyst at research firm Canalys, told Mashable. "Apple has done a great job integrating personal health metrics from third-party devices directly into iOS and allowing health and fitness apps access to this data in a privacy-sensitive manner. Being able to remotely send important health information to medical practitioners is a powerful level of integration.”
For example, Apple's partnership with Mayo Clinic will allow users to log information like blood pressure within the app. HealthKit would then alert the MayoClinic app about whether or not the results are in the normal range and even contact medical professionals.
While fitness tracker brands like Jawbone and Fitbit may need to partner with the tech giant to survive, if Apple wants to accelerate its progress, it might consider acquiring other companies who are already gaining traction too.
"There’s no way Apple isn't going to become a big leader in this environment considering how they approach consumer interface — who is better at that than Apple?" Snow said.
"Apple is unquestionably serious about growing the fitness and wearable space, if their hiring patterns are any indication. Other companies should be thinking about how they can get on board with what Apple has in store."
An acquisition would give Apple a robust user base and more experience in the health care domain that it currently doesn't have.
"Apple isn't experienced with healthcare and they are trying to grow [their] efforts inorganically, so it might make sense for them to buy a leader in the space for the user base and the employee talent that comes with it," Snow said. "Healthcare IT is not a trivial domain; you can't just jump in overnight."
Mike Lee, CEO and co-founder of MySeaworthinessPal (an app for food logging, nutrition and exercise tracking) told Mashable it sees Apple as a potential partner and is "excited" about its expansion plans in this area.
“The news clearly validates this is a huge potential market — Apple doesn’t get involved in small things and its focused on massive opportunities,” Lee said.
“We definitely see Apple as a partner and it’s an enabler," he added. "We use data to help our users succeed and anything that helps them access more data and work toward their goals is great. While we will remain focused on delivering the best value for our consumers, my guess is Apple will be trying to consolidate the existing app market.”
Jawbone and Fitbit have not responded to a request for comment.
One of the major challenges facing Apple, according to Snow of Forrester Research, is that there isn't a network standard right now for wearables, which causes the battery life to strain.
"Until that problem is solved, the creation of the mobile phone as the hub as a true healthcare monitor is not really possible," he said. "Wearable batteries need to be more powerful and slimmer, but the big challenge is that a wearable should feel almost weightless and a stronger battery will make devices larger."
Right now, the Bluetooth power protocol — which is the lowest for network transmission available — consumes too much power and drains the battery. In theory, Apple could announce a new network standard along with the iWatch.
"If Apple doesn't do a new network protocol, another company like Samsung could," Snow said.
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