This year, my focus has been Medical Tech and UX. Ive always had an interest in the sector and followed the development of HealthTech closely. In my currently project I was given the opportunity to explore how health data could be leveraged to give insights. This lead to the starting a new app in this space. Instantly I bought up the opportunity to marry the app objectives with automation such as Health Kit/FitAPI with possibilities of going into the CareKit functionality. Below is summary of the research in this area specifically how we possibly use this data to make recommendations and move the use forward.
How can health apps use the data from HealthKit and Google Fit?
Previously, before Apple HealthKit started its journey (and soon Google followed suit with its Google Fit), users had to manage their fitness data in several gym trainer apps and web tools. And although some popular healthcare platforms (the same Fitbit) tried to find the best solution to this problem, the result was less than wonderful.
Now all this is in the past, and users can easily track their lifestyle and store health and fitness data in one single place. No doubt, such approach improves the user experience and increases the desire to buy fitness activity trackers and healthcare devices. Well, and one more important bonus: thanks to these frameworks, the app development is simplified and, consequently, the price for this service is reduced. And since you are thinking about creating fitness apps for Android or iPhone, that is good news, isn’t it?
HealthKit is, actually, a toolkit that helps developers create activity tracker apps synchronised with the standard Health application (a default program for modern iOS devices) and all kinds of medical devices and software aimed to collect data on the user fitness activity (as well as his or her health situation and so on).
The Google Fit platform is similar to HealthKit from Apple and designed to monitor the physical activity and health of Android users. With the help of wearable devices or sensors built into smartphones, the service automatically fixes when the person walks, runs or rides a bicycle.
Medical and fitness tracking apps can, with user consent, access all such data in Google Fit, including information collected by Google services and other applications.
Benefits of HealthKit and Google Fit for users and health tracker app developers:
HealthKit and Google Fit store health and fitness data from different sources, which simplifies the shared use of various gym trainer apps. It’s a good thing because…Developers should not download APIs and write custom code for sharing with each application. Different health and fitness apps can exchange data with each other without using complicated integration solutions.
Users do not have to manually establish connections between their applications or import and export their data. There is an opportunity to expand the functionality of fitness apps for iPhone and Android by using extra data about the health and physical activity of the user (thanks to the shared data store of the Health Apple program and Google Fit app).
We see now what the essence of HealthKit and Google Fit is, why they are needed, and how they resemble each other. But what is the difference between them (besides the obvious one, namely – they work on different platforms)?
What differences between HealthKit and Google Fit
Let’s see how HealthKit and Google Fit interact with health tracker applications and process fitness data. Also, we’re going to clarify other important nuances. In general, Apple is more thorough about health issues, and Google focuses on standard fitness indicators. In addition, Apple offers a more comprehensive, detailed approach to analysing data, and Google provides an easier and more flexible set of tools.
It should be noted that Apple official list of data is rather larger than that of Google. Want more specifics? Welcome!
The application “Health” collects data on the following indicators of the way of user’s living:
Activity. These fitness data characterise the physical activity of the user: the steps taken are being combined with information obtained from other activity tracker apps and allow an objective result.
Mindfulness. In this case, the Health application collects all the data and shows how much time the user has devoted to a mindfulness practice.
Sleep. HealthKit also stores user sleep data. Information is being received from several sources (the iPhone itself with its “Sleep Mode” and third-party fitness gadgets and accessories).
Nutrition. Apple suggests combining data about the diet in one shared store: the number of calories consumed, for example. In the same store, there will be information from third-party food control applications and popular healthcare platforms.
Other important data. The Health app allows users to store health and fitness data relating to other life indicators (heart, analysis, reproductive health, etc.)
All data is being encrypted and backed up in the iCloud repository.
Google Fit collects data of the following types:
Physical activity (number of steps passed, the speed of running or riding a bicycle, etc.)
Location. This information allows Google Fit to determine the distance the user has walked, run or ridden a bicycle.
Drinking mode and nutrition. Google Fit gets this data from connected medical and fitness tracking apps.
Information from sensors on the body (for example, about the pulse and weight).
Fitness apps for Android that interact with Google Fit can use and share data in one of the following ways:
- Sharing when fitness data is available to all connected health and fitness apps.
- Isolated storage when a certain application blocks access to its data in Google Fit app.
All data is being stored in cloud storage.
Obviously, it’s easier for people to perceive information visually, and therefore UI/UX always plays a major role. So, both the Health program from Apple and Google Fit app made their best to create beautiful interfaces.
Usually, Apple offers a fairly convenient and simple interface for its default applications, but Health is the exception to this rule. However, such an impression is deceptive, and, in fact, this app is well thought out and structured. Among other things, it provides the user with the ability to compare data without activating multiple screens at once.
Users can view the information they need in one single screen, pursuant to the specified parameters: for example, within a certain time interval. Besides, the system prompts which devices and fitness apps for the iPhone can interact with HealthKit.
The design of the Google Fit app interface is quite intuitive and clear, but it is not perfect. Among other things, it forces the user to constantly swipe the screens to get those or other health or fitness data. Agree, this is not too user-friendly.
In general, the interface displays (in a rather simple way) the chronology of classes, goals. And a customizable widget easily transfers this information to the desktop of the smartphone. Google Fit also uses graphics and cards to make the application work even clearer.
Okay, but what are the limitations of HealthKit?
The use of HealthKit is allowed only for fitness apps for iPhone (we mean if the HealthKit API provides their main functionality). You can not display health information if your application does not in any way affect the fitness activity or another aspect of the user’s lifestyle. Or clearly explain to the user what information and why you are collecting – that is, why you need it.
The received information about the physical activity of the user cannot be used for advertising. Yes, the idea to promote your health tracker app through Apple’s famous product is very tempting, but not feasible. And it’s kind of disappointing to find that HealthKit reserves the right to earn on ads. But, as they say, “those who pay the piper call the tune”.
The activity tracker app can share HealthKit information only if the user permits it. Yes, this is an obvious rule, but it can not be ignored. That’s why we should have mentioned such a restriction.
You can not compliment your user interface with any pictures related to the Health app from Apple (icons, screenshots, etc.). And you should not use the term “HealthKit” either. After all, HealthKit is a developer term, and it stands for a technical platform for accessing data stored in the Health application. And everything else has nothing to do with it!
With the user’s consent, you can use his or her HealthKit data for medical research (together with a third party). It is becoming quite a popular and promising trend, perhaps, you, too, want to participate in this initiative.
Well, finally, it’s important to clearly explain to the user how you and your gym trainer app are going to use his HealthKit data. Misunderstanding contributes to suspicion, and this is not good, is it?
Unlike Apple, Google does not make such a huge statement about the data stored in Google Fit. However, its advertising policy limits the use of “sensory data” in marketing activities (especially when it comes to medical records).
In fact, Google puts requirements similar to HealthKit:
You can take advantage of API only for your own use, it’s not a basis for building an API Client of the same type for third parties. Such an act can be regarded as a kind of fraud.
Be sure to ask the user for permission to take advantage of his Google Fit app data. Again, an obvious but reasonable limitation.
Unlike HealthKit, Google Fit does not oblige you to use its data only to create fitness apps for Android. However, you can not in any way promote the development of the online virtual casino (or gambling of the other sort) or use it for “ill advertising”.
Don’t use the provided API to create any health tracker apps that can potentially cause damage to the user. Of course, it is beyond your conscious ability to control everything, but if you have doubts about the unsafe use of the application, better give up your idea.