Apple adds new fields to HealthKit and native apps to Watch


The potential of Apple's Watch for health and fitness tracking received a boost this week when the company announced that it will allow third-party apps to run natively on the device, and that it would also be able to access HealthKit, which will be updated with extra health categories when iOS 9 is released later this year.

The current model of the Watch, released in April, requires people to also carry their iPhone when exercising or using it for health-related purposes, as the apps run on the phone and interact with the watch by Bluetooth.

By allowing apps to run natively, they will be able to use health-related features of the Watch such as the heart rate sensor as well as the accelerometer and microphone, its 'Taptic Engine' for haptic feedback, and to HealthKit, a developer tool that allows different third-party apps to share data with each other and with Apple's Health app.

Apple's vice president of technology, Kevin Lynch, told its developers' conference this week that access to HealthKit natively on the Watch will allow for the live streaming of heart rate data while users are exercising.

Apple also announced that the Health app will include new categories for reproductive health, hydration, UV exposure and sedentary time when the next version of its operating system for mobile devices, iOS 9, is released later this year.

The Health app currently has categories for data on vital signs, test results and body measurements, but women will now be able to collect and store data on their basal body temperature, periods and ovulation test results.

Mr Lynch said the Watch's new operating system – dubbed watchOS 2 – Apple will also enable its voice command technology Siri to start workout apps so users won't need to touch the device. Apple has also designed digital rewards in the form of achievement badges for milestones that can be shared with others over Facebook and Twitter.

“With watchOS 2, we are enabling your favourite fitness apps to run natively on the watch so you can use them wherever you are, and your workouts with these apps will contribute directly to your all-day activity,” Mr Lynch said.

“[There is] access to HealthKit natively on the watch including streaming heart rate data, so if you are doing say a bike ride, you can see what zone you are in while you are biking.”

Developers will also be able to access the Watch's accelerometer for movement data. Mr Lynch demonstrated an app called Ping that uses the accelerometer to measure the speed of a golf swing.

Other features of watchOS 2 include native access to HomeKit, Apple's home automation framework. HomeKit on the Watch will mean users can talk to their home devices through the device on their wrist.

The watch also includes a new feature called Complications. In traditional watch-making terms this means anything added to a watch not concerned with the time, such as date displays. For Apple, Complications means any chunk of information important to the user, such as weather, flight details or the charge level of their electric car.

The Watch will also allow users to reply to emails by voice, and even functions as a bedside alarm clock with the Digital Crown acting as the snooze button when the Watch is recharging overnight.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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