Google left out a key word in previewing its Google Fit data-aggregation platform this week: “health.”
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While Apple played up the “health” angle in announcing its interesting but hardly groundbreaking HealthKit platform earlier this month, Google put the emphasis squarely on fitness. “We want to help users keep better track of their fitness goals,” Ellie Powers, product manager for Google Play developers, said during the Internet giant’s annual Google I/O developers’ conference.
“Before Google Fit, I was trying to track and monitor my bike rides through my bike computer, and then my weight training through a specialized app, and it was a huge hassle,” Powers said.
I can relate. I track my own, frequent bike rides through a bike computer, a GPS cycling app and a wristwatch with built-in heart-rate monitor. None of the three elements are connected to each other, and I often think that while I’m on my bike, I’m a living, rolling example of how health data lives in silos. Except for one thing: When people in health IT talk about health data, they’re really referring to healthcare data. Although health and healthcare affect each other, they are not the same. Fitness is a form of self-care that can improve health, but it, too, is distinct from healthcare.
That’s not to say there isn’t some overlap, or that there will be convergence at some point, but Powers wisely avoided that discussion in playing up Google Fit, which the company is calling a set of open APIs for aggregating data from various devices, including wearables. After all, she was talking to a room full of tech developers.
Powers demonstrated how Google Fit helps a weight-loss coaching app called Noom pull in workout records, nutritional information and the user’s weight and “talk directly to my Withings scale,” as she said. She also discussed connections with Adidas and Nike products.
There’s certainly a cynical reason for talking about fitness and not health: the failure of Google Health, an overhyped, underused personal health record that garnered massive headlines from a fawning consumer and tech press merely for the fact that it was from Google. (Those of us who cover healthcare for a living saw through the smokescreen.)
As a somewhat of a cynic myself, I don’t discount this theory one bit, but there’s a more practical reason why “health” was nowhere to be found in this presentation: fitness and healthcare still are distinct markets.People who are into fitness and participatory sports spend lots of money on gear and gadgets, but when it comes to healthcare, Americans expect someone else — usually an insurance company — to pay the bill. Though everyone eventually needs healthcare, healthcare is a tough sell to a consumer audience. Fitness is a much easier sell to a highly devoted subset of the population.
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