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Apple Health: Everything you need to know

We take a thorough look at Apple’s Health and Healthkit to figure out what they means for you, the end user. 

Apple lifted the curtain on iOS 8 at its annual WWDC in San Francisco, giving the public a glimpse of what the next iteration of its mobile operating system would offer. One upcoming feature which we think didn’t get nearly enough attention during the reveal was ‘Health’ and its sidekick ‘Healthkit’, so we’ve spent a little time drawing together the facts, to bring you all you need to know about the app.

Apple Health is just around the corner. Here's what you need to know.

What are Apple Health and Healthkit?

Apple Health is an app which will launch with iOS 8. It will collect information from various sources and act like an ‘easy to read dashboard of your health and fitness data’. Healthkit is the developer package, which will enable app makers to create tools to help you manage your health.

How does it work?

Apple Health will collect data from third-party sensors, the accelerometer and M7 co-processor in your iPhone, Nike products and other sources to create a picture of your overall health and fitness. With these sensors, the app will keep track of things like calories, cholesterol, heart rate and more. It will then display the information on your device’s lockscreen (or the app itself) for your viewing pleasure.

Healthcare providers are already rumoured to be working on apps which will report information collected by the app directly to physicians and hospitals which will, in theory, allow them to deliver faster and more efficient care when it’s necessary.

What does Apple Health look like?

The app itself closely resembles Passbook, displaying cogent information via cards. It was long rumoured to be called ‘Healthbook’ but the longer name was dropped, replaced by the much more to the point ‘Health’.

As mentioned, information can be displayed on your device’s lockscreen or via the app’s ‘dash board’ in both written form and in the form of charts and graphics.

What features will Apple Health include?

Apple Health will monitor the following categories:

  • Diagnostics
  • Fitness
  • Lab Results
  • Medications
  • Nutrition
  • Sleep
  • Vitals

It will also allow users to set up an ‘Emergency Card’ which will display all of your important health-based information, such as allergies, medications and medical notes, on your device’s lock screen — giving healthcare professionals (or emergency services personnel) a great head-start should they need to treat you in a hurry.

What will Apple Health offer in real terms?

Any information we can possess about the overall state of our health and fitness is likely to be beneficial and it is promised that Apple Health will deliver a lot. For those who are looking to maintain a firm grasp over their diet and fitness, the app will likely prove indispensable. There are plenty who currently use a host of third-party apps to try and keep tabs on sections of their life and Apple Health will undoubtedly make things clearer by aggregating all of the necessary data and putting it in one place, front and centre.

WIll Apple Health really be effective?

That’s the big question, and it all depends on the the data it has access to. As we all know, data is only scientifically useful if it’s accurate and to collect accurate data one needs accurate, medical grade tools. We only have to look to the gimmicky and potentially harmful ‘heart rate monitors’ being offered, which gather data by using a smartphone’s camera to see where things could go wrong.

As Andy Baker, CEO of SmartLife, notes: “The Apple health app is fantastic news for the industry, but an app is only as good as the data it receives, and that’s where the biggest opportunity exists. 

Irrespective of what Apple, or Google is doing to turn data into useable healthcare information, what’s needed is accurate and medical grade hardware to get the very best out of these exciting apps.  A lot of products currently on the market provide inaccurate or false data. Relying on an accelerometer to measure movement or optical sensors to measure heart rate is simply not good enough.”

It is not until we have products that can be integrated into everyday life that offer data as close to medical grade as possible, that we will be able to unlock an exciting remote healthcare future and get the most from powerful apps.”

While third parties are already hard at work, developing affordable, medical grade tools which will play nice with Health, Apple itself is said to be working tirelessly to put out an accessory of its own which will potentially deliver solid, accurate data for use with the new app when it launches.

Apple Health and the iWatch

The smartwatch, or iWatch as it’s currently being called, will potentially revolutionise the way data is collected (unless Google gets there first) by tying an operating system to a bunch of wearable sensors, enabling the collection of accurate data – as well as other cool features, we’re willing to bet, and of course we don’t know yet what sensors the upcoming iPhone 6 will be packing when it launches in September or October.

One thing’s for sure though, 2014 is set to be a big year for getting to grips with our fitness and health, and we can’t wait to get our hands on Apple Health and indeed iOS 8 when it launches in the Autumn. Check out our complete guide to all the new iOS 8 features

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