Apple Introduces Health App, A Centralized Hub For Biometric Data

New features in iOS 8 point to a new era focused on health tracking.

Apple Introduces Health App, A Centralized Hub For Biometric Data
[Image: Flickr user unlistedsightings]

Ever since Tim Cook took over at Apple, analysts have been calling for the Next Big Thing, a category redefining product like the iPhone or iPad. Today onstage at the Worldwide Developer Conference (which we’re liveblogging!), Apple unveiled new software for iOS 8 that gives us some rather prescient breadcrumbs concerning where the Tim Cook era is headed.


Unveiled were two new features: “HealthKit” (a set of tools for developers) and “Health” (the actual iOS app)–not “Healthbook” as 9to5Mac first reported earlier this year, but pretty close.

Health is akin to Apple’s Passbook organizer, but instead of centralizing your Starbucks cards and Evenbrite tickets, it pulls in your biometric data from a number of different sources. It will be devoted to measuring, storing, and consolidating what was individually siloed information like sugar levels, oxygen saturation, bloodwork, weight, steps taken, and nightly hours logged sleeping.

Like Passbook, Health will act as a hub for third-party apps, drawing data from third-party applications like Nike+, Jawbone, RunKeeper, Sleep Cycle, and their ilk. Apple is also partnering with the Mayo Clinic so that consumers can compare their health data against personalized health parameters.

The introduction of the iPhone’s M7 motion coprocessor seemed to hint that activity logging was part of Apple’s strategy. In that vein, the new application could be a critical part of iOS going forward.

Apple is hardly alone, of course. Last week, Samsung revealed its own fitness platform to court third-party developers in the form of a prototype device called the Simband. Apple has spent the better part of the last few months hiring health experts, like J.E.M. Raymann, a sleep researcher from Philips Research who specializes in sensors. The evidence seems to point at a long rumored iWatch in the making in the future, which likely will differentiate itself from other smartwatches with a focus on health tracking.

Nike, which suddenly trimmed down its FuelBand team in April, is rumored to be a key partner in the future should such an Apple smartwatch ever comes to fruition. (Remember: Apple snatched up Nike “Innovation Kitchen” chief Ben Shaffer last year, who knows a thing or two about making the stuff you wear look cool.) While iPhone users might not necessarily take to Health (Passbook’s critics have long been skeptical of its usefulness), at the very least it lays some very interesting groundwork.

About the author

Chris is a staff writer at Fast Company, where he covers business and tech. He has also written for The Week, TIME, Men's Journal, The Atlantic, and more.