Editor’s note: This week is Android Primer Week here at Applause where we will be looking at everything coming down the pipe for the Android community and app development.
Let’s make one thing absolutely clear: despite the popular lexicon, health and fitness are two very different categories.
Google wants to own your fitness data. Apple wants your health data. The battle between the forthcoming Google Fit and Apple’s HealthKit is an extension of the war between Android and iOS and two fundamentally different approaches.
Health is a messy world reigned by old laws and government regulation. Any entrepreneur that thought they can make a huge dent in the world of health—how doctors and healthcare professionals conduct their business—has been met with a rude awakening. Doctors don’t like change and the rules around the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) make it difficult to build the next generation of health and medical applications. If you want to see everything that is wrong with the health software development system in the United States, just take a deep look at what really happened with the rollout of Obamacare in 2013.
Fitness is a much more open and technologically advanced ecosystem, at least in the realm of consumer electronics. Fitness software is not governed by HIPAA or subject to stodgy rules by physicians or insurance companies. Wearable fitness trackers devices like the FitBit, JawBone Up and Nike FuelBand are common and socially accepted and do not take a doctor to set up and understand. Fitness is unencumbered by the restraints of the medical system and plays to the ego of the user, a combination that makes it a much more appealing (and profitable) target for app developers.
Google is well aware of the difference between health and fitness, especially from an app development perspective. It has already been down the tangled web of health and medical software when it launched Google Health in 2008 as, “a safe and secure way to collect, store, and manage [your] medical records and health information online.”
Keep this tag line in mind.
Google shut down Google Health in 2011 and the company was forthright in saying why.
Google senior product manager Aaron Brown wrote at the time:
Now, with a few years of experience, we’ve observed that Google Health is not having the broad impact that we hoped it would. There has been adoption among certain groups of users like tech-savvy patients and their caregivers, and more recently fitness and wellness enthusiasts. But we haven’t found a way to translate that limited usage into widespread adoption in the daily health routines of millions of people.