[box] This is a guest post from Beth Kelly, who is a freelance writer and blogger. Born and raised in Michigan, she moved to Chicago to attend DePaul University where she graduated in 2011. She lived in Krakow, Poland briefly before moving to South Korea to teach English. She writes most frequently on health and technology topics. You can follow her on Twitter @bkelly_88.[/box]
There are hundreds of thousands of apps available for your smartphone. The fitness and health section of Apple’s App Store is almost overflowing with choices, and with that many options it would take anyone hours to do their research and find exactly what they’re looking for. Even if you’ve already collected a favorite cache of helpful health and fitness apps, tech companies are constantly striving to improve their products and push you on a journey to better health. And if you’re like many other consumers in a close relationship with their mobile device, chances are you might even use your phone for monitoring heart related ailments or a chronic disease like diabetes. There are a myriad of apps available that allow users to “self-quantify” and establish a more productive relationship with the functions of their body.
Yet, the problem for many of those looking for technological help with their health is simply that so many of these apps are owned by different companies, developed using different software, and just generally incompatible with each other. For someone with diabetes, for example, it can be difficult to monitor your blood sugar levels, insulin, and your food intake from three different apps.
Luckily companies like Google and Apple have heard the call and have developed their own sort of “catch all” for these apps, allowing them to work together and deliver the results you need from a sleek and easy-to-use interface. This type of software is posed to revolutionize the healthcare industry, making it easier for doctors to diagnose and treat issues by simply looking at the data collected from apps on your smartphone.
“Doctors and healthcare providers are increasingly looking to technology to make their lives easier and their practices run more smoothly, and so the proliferation of ways for people to track their own health data is definitely a boon to practitioners and patients alike,” says HealthITJobs.com’s Tim Cannon. “While worries about privacy and data security are coming to the forefront now as people explore these new ways of interfacing with their healthcare, it’s likely that just as we’ve seen with the adoption of other technologies, big companies like Apple and Google, with direct health industry backing, will be doing everything they can to allay these concerns.”
So what makes Apple’s “HealthKit” different from Google’s “Fit”? Is one better than the other? While much of it likely depends of personal preferences, here’s the rundown of the two leaders in this pack:
First unveiled in June at Apple’s annual developer conference this app is the product of a new relationship between Apple, the Mayo Clinic, and Epic Systems, one of the nation’s largest creators of electronic medical records. The three powerhouses joining together was enough to get both the health and technology worlds buzzing about this being the next breakthrough.
The features within the HealthKit are impressive, according to Apple’s page for the new iOS8, which will contain it. The new system will collect all of the data from your preexisting health and fitness apps and store, track, and monitor it all from one place (similar to the existing PassBook.) Beyond that, you can share the data you’ve obtained with your doctor, and use the blood pressure, cholesterol, or blood sugar level stats to develop a larger picture of your health. It also will be able to transfer data from one app to another – this way a “food diary” type app can work in conjunction with an exercise app to tell you how much exercise you need to do to hit your weight loss goals.
Considering all the lofty ambitions Apple has shared with us, including ever-persistent rumors of an “iWatch” that could serve as a fitness tracker as well, there are a few noticeable slipping points. The first obstacle is ease of use. In an age of instant gratification, are consumers going to want to take the type to sync up all their apps, input medical data, then regularly monitor and track them? Beyond that there is the issue of data privacy. With the increasing amount of hackers and software leaks, will people really want to rely on technology companies to protect their private health and medical records?
At its core, Google Fit is very similar to the Apple HealthKit. It can be used to track all the data from your health, fitness, and nutrition apps in one place. Of course, Google Fit is only available through Android devices, and HealthKit is only for Apple products, so that alone might make the decision easy for some.
Much like Apple, Google has teamed up with other companies to combine all their technology in an effort to streamline the overall user experience. Unlike Apple however, according to the Google Fit webpage there are big names such Adidas, Nike, Basis, Intel, LG, RunKeeper, Motorola, HTC, Runtastic, and Polar interested in getting involved as well.
Yet despite the visibility of these bigger brands, Google may encounter more difficulty in getting people to warm up to their product. We already know how quickly Android has taken over the smartphone market, but Apple seems to have a greater number of high-quality apps due in large part to the veritable goldmine developers see in the App store. Also standing in its way are residual ghosts of the failure of Google Health, the company’s unsuccessful prior attempt to serve as a personalized health records service launched in 2008 only to be cancelled in 2011.
It isn’t all an uphill battle for Google, though – for those who are wary of Apple’s wide reach, the Google Fit software is much simpler. Instead of attempting to monitor and track users health and medical records, the system serves as more of a platform for health device manufacturers (like Nike’s FuelBand) to make their devices compatible with the Android operating system. This makes it much more welcoming for developers and companies who want to break into Android software, indicating a potentially bright future for the Fit.
You’ve likely already established which phone you are loyal to. Chances are that if you’re an iPhone person, you have made a lifetime commitment – the same being true for Android. However if you are on the fence, and are considering switching based on the latest software presented by both companies, now may be an ideal time to make the switch. If you would like to strike a balance, and establish a harmony between your nutrition, fitness, and general well-being apps, Google Fit’s comprehensive platform may be your best bet. But, if you’re someone with more serious medical needs that demands daily monitoring, the services provided by Apple’s HealthKit could make your life much simpler – perhaps one day even going so far as to save it.