Health Kit

The Real Purpose Behind Apple Watch: Health Tracking


I read a very interesting article from Time this week that talked about Apple's original motivation for creating the Apple Watch. It wasn't so we could all walk around pretending to be Inspector Gadget like many of us originally thought. The genesis of the Apple Watch came from Steve Jobs and all the time he spent in and out of hospitals while fighting pancreatic cancer:

“During this time, Jobs discovered how disjointed the healthcare system can be. He took on the task of trying to bring some digital order to various aspects of the healthcare system, especially the connection between patients, their data, and their healthcare providers.”

-- The Real Reason Apple Made the Apple Watch Time May 9, 2016

This actually makes a lot of sense. Most products come into being from the simple act of seeing a need and developing something to fill that need. However, in this case, I think Apple developed the Apple Watch as a medical device for the long term. The Apple Watch as it came out into the market in the Spring of 2015 was not that device. It was only earlier this year that Apple announced Health Kit. No, Apple has a long term strategy to revamp the health care system and make it more patient friendly and patient convienant but this can't be done overnight. Apple Watch version 1.0 was a smart watch and as such most people were judging the watch based on what it could do for them and comparing it against all the things they could do with their phone. As well they should be, after all the "smart" in smart watch means the watch should be doing things to make your life easier. So now that we know that Apple made the Apple Watch for health reasons, what does this mean for the everyday Apple Watch user?

For most people, this revelation about why Apple initially developed the Apple Watch is completely irrelevant. Let's face it, most people don't rush out and buy a shiny new tech product because it's healthy for them and Apple knows this. But Apple also knows, thanks to the iPhone, that if you already have a device that is with you at all times you also now have a device that is with you at all times and can track things about you. That is a very important step if you want to track your body's health parameters. Apple has a very long term strategy when it comes to fulfilling Steve Jobs' vision concerning the health care industry. You can't change this industry overnight, but you can slowly chip away at it. The first version of the Apple Watch put a fitness tracker on the wrists of millions of people and made it very simple for each of those individuals to track their heart rate, fitness activities and diet. Now with the introduction of Health Kit Apple is taking the Apple Watch one step further and allowing doctors and researchers to tap into the wealth of information the Apple Watch is collecting (collecting for you and only you as that data is protected) as it clings to your wrist from day to day. It won't be long before you can link your Apple Watch to your doctor's office so that when your doctor first walks into the examination room he or she already knows the basics (your heart rate, temperature, blood pressure, general activity levels over the past few weeks and your overall diet). We have already seen stories in the new where the Apple Watch has notified its owner about an irregular heart rate such that the person took proactive measures and got medical help before going into full cardiac arrest. I think we can expect expect to hear about more stories like this as Apple adds new health tracking features and the industry taps further into Health Kit.

But in the mean time, what does all of this mean for Apple Watch as a smart watch? I think it means that we can expect Apple to continue to make it a more feature rich wearable. However, Apple's long term vision for this device is more tailored towards health tracking instead of turning us all into Inspector Gadget. That isn't to say Apple can't do both at the same time, but it does explain why Apple didn't come out of the gates with a smart watch that did absolutely everything. If the Apple Watch was too feature rich and did too many things then the average person would be too intimidated by its complexity. If that were to happen then Apple wouldn't have the critical mass necessary for the health industry to develop the programs to tap into Apple Watch data. This also explains why the "super geeks" of the world are the ones complaining about the Apple Watch and the more average consumers are raving about the device. The Apple Watch simply wasn't designed for the gadget nerd.

App Review Tue: My Fitness Pal

For those of you that used to use your iPhone 5s with the Fitbit iOS app to keep track of your daily steps, exercise and diet activities this is not news to you. But for the rest of you, Fitbit has decided to NOT support Apple's Health Kit in iOS 8. That means the Fitbit app no longer ties into the iPhone's ability to track your steps. So if you want to use Fitbit's app then you must use one of their devices as well. I totally understand Fitbit's desire for you to buy their hardware instead of Apple's. It costs them money to update their free iOS app, so I understand where they would not want to spend that money in order to make their app work with Apple hardware that compete's with their own. But I do have one gripe....their Aria digital scale. I bought their scale for the sole purpose of being able to tie together my daily weight with my caloric input. With Fitbit's decision to not support Health Kit they have essentially walled off use of their Aria scale to only those people that ALSO have a Fitbit activity tracker. You can't tie weight and activity together unless you buy more Fitbit hardware. In my mind that is breaking a deal or at least an expectation they set with customers.

For now, there is a fix for this problem if you use My Fitness Pal. From the My Fitness Pal Website you can connect your Fitbit account with your My Fitness Pal account and it will pull in the Aria Fitness Scale weight measurements automatically from your Fitbit account into your My Fitness Pal account. I'm not holding my breath that Fitbit is going to allow this kind of connectivity to keep happening in the future though...

Ok, rant over. This Tuesday's app review is for an app called My Fitness Pal. iOS 8 is still pretty new and My Fitness Pal is the best rated app I could find that ties into Apple's Health Kit and activity tracking capabilities of the iPhone. The reason I downloaded the app (it's a free app) is to fix the issues I was having with Fitbit's decision to not support Health Kit. While My Fitness Pal doesn't solve the problem of automatically getting data from my Aria scale (I still have to do that manually), it does integrate beautifully into Health Kit...meaning when I add my daily diet items into the app the nutritional information is fed into Health Kit. This is a good thing from a medical point of view because in the future if I want to share my diet information with my doctor, Health Kit will give me that option. Some of the other features about My Fitness Pal that I find very useful are:

  • Add food items in by scanning the bar code with the iPhone camera
  • Creating a custom item that isn't in the database
  • Quick input, the "+" button to add an entry is a button at the bottom/center of the screen
  • Ability to input a certain type of exercise and the app will calculate calories burned
  • Ability to add in a custom exercise item for when you know exactly how many calories you burned
  • Main screen shows a breakdown of you calories:

    • Calories remaining in your daily goal
    • Total calories allowed per day in your goal
    • Caloric intake
    • Calories burned by exercise
    • Separately breaks out calories burned due to steps taken from exercise

    My favorite feature of this app is its ability to take a recipe (a list of ingredients), group them together as a custom food item and then calculate the calories. There are a lot of items that eat on a regular basis that are homemade and this makes it really easy to list those items AND capture the national values of those homemade items without having to just "fake it" by only capturing it with calories.

    I've used many different calorie counting apps over the last several years, some free and some I had to pay for. My Fitness Pal is the best app I have found so far and it's free.

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