Apple Health App’s Unfulfilled Potential
In June 2014, Apple first revealed its Apple Health app at the Worldwide Developers Conference, promising a centralized platform for managing your health and fitness data — from step counts and heart rates recorded by wearable devices, to blood sugar and cholesterol levels input manually. The announcement of an Apple Health app was met with much fanfare; in particular, commentators were excited about potential breakthroughs in health care research by incorporating the Healthkit platform into pharmaceutical research and development, and clinical programs to help doctors treat patients with asthma and diabetes.
Apple’s plans were (and are) certainly ambitious — but, two years later, is HealthKit living up to its potential? Researchers are hard at work on programs that collect DNA from iPhone-owning volunteers; and IBM has developed a new online service for analyzing Healthkit data and identifying “medically useful” patterns in users’ information. However, the full benefits of HealthKit have yet to be realized due to three critical limitations to the Apple Health app:
1. It doesn’t integrate with Fitbit (and many other major health-tracking devices). Apple’s Health integration only works in one direction; in other words, other applications can share information with the Apple Health app, but Apple won’t send any information back. This has prevented many major players in the wearable industry from joining the Healthkit platform — including Fitbit, the world’s top-selling fitness tracker. Rather than develop tools for managing the flow of data between applications, Apple has stood by its traditional strategy of a closed system.
2. The data is stuck on your device. Apple Health is not cloud-based; it can’t be connected with other applications unless they are available on the App Store and installed directly on your phone. Again, Apple has justified this move in terms of privacy and security — but the practical consequence is that an enormous number of relevant health indicators are left out of the platform. Unless a device or tool is designed specifically for iPhone, you can’t take advantage of its information. That excludes important software like RescueTime (which sits in your desktop browser and tracks how you spend time on the internet) that can provide valuable insights into medical conditions, including sleep disorders anddepression.
3. It doesn’t provide a holistic view. The Apple Health app only draws data from apps that fall under their narrow criteria for ‘health and fitness.’ But, as the example of RescueTime example illustrates, more diverse data sources are necessary to get a complete picture of health. For example, apps likeAutomatic, which collects information your driving habits, can help you learn about how your commute may affect your health. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have suggested that the content of your Twitter posts strongly correlates to your likelihood of heart disease, and another recent study has demonstrated a link between choice of Instagram filters and incidence of depression. None of these data sources are available in Apple Health.
A Better Apple Health App
We’re building a cloud-based personal analytics platform that corrects all the areas the Apple Health app comes up short. We’re committed to protecting your privacy, and security is one of our top concerns — we don’t share your information with anybody, we just build the most cutting-edge tools for understanding your data. Download the Sherbit app on the App Store to try it for yourself!
A cloud-based app opens new possibilities for generating insights into your data and staying on top of your health. The Apple Health app only updates its data when a connected app is opened by the user; in other words, it’s not always “current,” and it can only show you information you’ve already seen. Sherbit collects information directly from the app’s server, so you’re always seeing the most accurate and up-to-date data stream. And, it means you can integrate seamlessly with all your apps and devices — including Fitbit.
ResearchKit is a promising platform, but unless you are directly participating in a study, you won’t see any “results” from your data until major research projects have completed and papers have been published. But with just a few minutes to connect your services to Sherbit, you’ll be able to make instant visual comparisons of graphs from many diverse data streams, and receive periodic e-mails summarizing and breaking down your activity. We’re currently developing real-time insights — algorithms that discover patterns in your data, highlight those patterns to help you “read” your graphs, and push “smart” notifications that alert you when there are anomalies and fluctuations.
Unlike the Apple Health app, Sherbit is not tied down to a single platform — although the app is currently available for iPhone only, we are working tirelessly on developing a web-based client and an Android app. (Click here to be notified with the Android app is available). If you have an iPhone, download the app for free from the App Store. We’re constantly looking for ways to improve our platform, so don’t forget to shoot us an e-mail and let us know what you think!