9to5Mac leaked screenshots on Monday of the Healthbook, a long rumored project by Apple. Healthbook is a fitness and health tracker, but the screenshots suggest that counting calories and monitoring your heart rate are just scratching the surface of what this app is capable of.
The app tracks vital signs like blood sugar and respiratory information, which your iPhone can’t keep track of without a peripheral. The first implication here is obvious: Apple is likely developing a wearable, likely a wristband or an “iWatch,” as rumors have long held.
Besides getting us in shape, what are the broader implications of having our vital signs on hand, running analytics, bluetooth enabled and with push notifications?
The Medical Technology
Having information about blood sugar, hydration and blood pressure will be useful to anyone who needs to stay on top of that information daily. The app also appears to have advanced sleep analytics, likely designed by Apple’s recent hire in sleep science, as well as respiratory tracking and body weight info.
Arguably the most interesting screenshots are of “Emergency Card”, where you can store information like birthdate, blood type, location, organ donor status and emergency contact information. It’s enough to conjure images of an EMT arriving on the scene of a cardiac arrest, and being able to monitor how an unconscious patient’s vital signs were behaving in the hours leading up that moment.
We’re not going to see that kind of reality unless there’s a widespread adoption of the new technology. But if Apple’s history is any indicator, that’s exactly the kind of shift we’re looking at.
The Moment When We All Start Doing It
Apple still sets the schedule for consumer technology, even when it isn’t the dominant player. The iPhone’s large, multi-touch screen and app store paved the way for the widespread success of Android and the exodus from Blackberry. Tablet computers existed for years before the iPad dropped without taking hold. Now we have major markets for competitors like Galaxy Note, Kindle Fire, and Nexus 7.
To be clear, wearable medical technology already exists. The question isn’t about what the tech can do, it’s what we can do when the tech is everywhere.
If wearables are going to “happen,” it’s going to be when the right player gets involved. Apple may not do it best, and definitely not first. But when they take the leap, people will start buying in, and developers will follow suit.
Having Analytics On Hand
It’s the old cliche: “Not if, but when.” With the recent investor interest in wearables, and now with a clearer picture of what the consumer tech will be capable of, the “when” seems close. And it’s not just going to be for optimizing our morning run.
We’ll have medical statistics regarding our health, well being, alertness, and nutrition saddled between our music library and our OkCupid app. Which then begs the question: what happens when our vital signs become a data set – information that can be collected, packaged, and sold to interested parties.
We’ve spent so much time asking ourself to approximate: “How many hours of sleep am I getting?” “Around what time of day do I get hungry, or tired?” “When’s the best time to have my morning coffee?”
What’ll it be like to know?