Apple Health – Solving the Personal Big Data Problem

In case you missed it – today is the day Apple’s new uberphones, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, hit the market. Already, billions and billions of pixels have been produced online and Apple zealots have been queuing up for hours and hours overnight to be among the first to get a new iPhone. But the thing I’m most looking forward to is the new Health app.

Apple Health is an app built on Apple’s new HealthKit framework. Rather than entering the health hardware business directly, Apple’s play is to create a system that other companies can hook into.

Today’s WorldiPhone6-iPhone6Plus

If you’re into tracking your exercise, activity and nutrition, chances are you rely on several different apps. in my case, I use the Nike+ Running app, Fitocracy, iScale and Jawbone UP. Each has a specific purpose. The challenge is that I can integrate all the different pieces easily without re-enterring information somewhere.

This is a problem I bemoaned some time ago when I wrote about how Exercise and fitness technology combines with Big Data.

I can see how my weight has been tracking in one app, my diet in another and my activity in yet another. But correlating those pieces of information remains relatively difficult. That’s because different apps try to be the best at somethings but not at everything.

Apple’s World

Apple-iOS-health-iconOver the coming weeks, anyone who has decided to upgrade to iOS 8, the latest iteration of Apple’s mobile operating system, will see a new icon titled Health.

Initially, it will look a little thin on useful information. That’s because Health doesn’t actually track anything itself. It relies on other apps feeding it. It then collates and presents that data through what data analysts call a “single pane of glass”.

In other words, Health is designed to be a window into all of your health-related data.

Support for HealthKit looks like it will be very broad with almost every significant health and nutrition app we’ve looked into looking to hook into Health.

Are we there yet?

Apple Health is still in its infancy. In fact, even though iOS 8 was released a couple of days ago, it’s been reported that Apple found a flaw in the HealthKit framework at the last minute and pulled the app as well as a bunch of other apps that had been updated to support the new features.

Apple’s CEO Tim Cook is on the board at Nike so there’s little doubt that we’ll see updates to Nike’s fitness apps. Other’s like MyFitnessPal has had its app update pulled from the Apple store until Apple resolves the issue – something they say will happen by the end of the month.

We discovered a bug that prevents us from making HealthKit apps available on iOS 8 today. We’re working quickly to have the bug fixed in a software update and have HealthKit apps available by the end of the month.

So, by the middle of October 2014, I expect that we’ll see lots of updated health and fitness apps made available to iPhone users.

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