What if the rumored iOS 8 Healthbook wasn't just for an iWatch but for an internet of health things?

What if the rumored iOS 8 Healthbook wasn't just for an iWatch but for an internet of health things?

One of the most persistent rumors for iOS 8 focuses on Healthbook, a Passbook-style, card-based "wallet" app that would collect all your fitness, nutrition, sleep, and medical data all in one place. These rumors have been tied to the iWatch as a way Apple could track more and better health-based information, but there's also been speculation that Apple might go broader. Benedict Evans:

Suppose, for the sake of argument, that Apple does indeed plan a health app that's card-based, somewhat like Passbook. What would happen when you buy and turn on a blood pressure monitor that is certified for 'Healthbook'? Well, one would expect that Apple would use the Bluetooth LE auto discovery that's already in iOS7 to detect it automatically and tell you. And then, suppose it offers to install the Healthbook card to manage it (either from iTunes or from the device itself) - an HTML/Javascript package that runs in the Healthbook sandbox in some way. Suppose it does the same for any sensor you might buy? Then Apple has created a zero-setup platform for personal health devices. No apps, no native code, no app store, no configuration at all.

This would be one answer to why Apple's recent hires of 'wearables experts' sound a bit like a team for a hospital device rather than a watch, measuring various quite technical things - because Apple plans to enable such devices, not try to pack every single one into its own device. That is, the straightforward sensors should live in the phone (like the pedometer that's already in the iPhone 5S) and the complex and demanding ones should be enabled by an Apple platform, not become part of an Apple device.

Evans goes far beyond this, wondering out loud if this new, decoupled model could extend to Apple TV, CarPlay, and products from Google as well. In essence, whether apps and the web as we know it could be morphing into something more dynamic and more on-demand.

I've been hoping push-interface would emerge for a couple of years now. Check out Evans' piece and let me know — how would you want to see Healthbook and other next-generation services work?

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

What if the rumored iOS 8 Healthbook wasn't just for an iWatch but for an internet of health things?


As a physician, I would love these type of features. As a person trying to stay healthy, I would love it more!

This also leaves dealing with a lot of bureaucracy up to the companies that make the devices that send the data. I don't think that Apple really wants to be dealing with the health regulatory agencies over and over again by making lots of different devices.

One word: wow, and where would it stop, and would only be limited to your imagination. But to take this forward in this way I guess the iphone, and for example associated sensors on the body would mean we were all walking around like androids, no pun intended. I don't know maybe I'm being silly, and you can say I'm being silly if you want. But in that case this would mean you would look to the internet, and the internet of things with separate devices, which then would draw privacy and who controls that information, and what do they do with that information concerns.

And god help us if that information ever got hacked, or controlled in some way.

What Evans is talking about has existed since 2003, it's called ANT+. Would Apple ignore an alliance standard and do their own thing? Maybe, but I'm not sure how much support they would get (I think Evans has no idea this technology exists).


And here are the device profiles it supports:
heart rate monitors,speed sensors,cadence sensors,foot pods,power meters,activity monitors,calorimeters,body mass index measuring devices,blood pressure monitors,blood glucose meters,pulse oximeters,position tracking,short range homing beacons (Disc Golf, GeoCaching),weight measuring devices,control of music players,control of lighting
temperature sensors,light electric,vehicle monitoring,fitness equipment.

Evans also made the following statement in that article "The company most likely to kill native apps is Apple". That seems more like an interesting topic of discussion (as Rene alluded to towards the end)

No, HealthVault does what GoogleHealth tried to do: provide a cloud-based storage area for health data entered by the patient. Apple's plans for this app go beyond either.

I'm glad to know that you're an insider and have knowledge about what Apple is doing. Can you tell us more about what they will do?

Or are just speculating?

But young generation want cool stuff not some health related stuff... I don't think this will be a big hit.

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Not necessarily. I will agree that a lot of the features may not be as applicable to the "younger generation" such as the heart monitor, calorie-counter, etc. but there some good use could come of this that I think many will get behind. My younger brother (17) was recently diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and if Apple (and health vendors, obviously) could create a system that would allow him to at least alleviate the pricking of the finger and just measure his glucose/insulin level by some application such as Passbook and the Touch ID (or whatever technology would be required for this), not only would this help a social stigma but then he wouldn't have to feel as embarrassed about having a condition that requires insulin before every meal. Those wanting to go into the medical profession, the siblings of the younger generation, and let me just say there are a LOT of health related blogs via Tumblr that are widely popular (I've even started adding kale to replace spinach because of the benefits). These are the young generation, and more, that will get behind this (inevitably making it "cool" for the others).

P.S. This ended up much longer than I intended, sorry. :-p

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It would also once again PROVE that Apple is STILL INNOVATING!

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One day in our lifetime, an MRI will be no bigger than an iPhone. Tricorder? I would like something the article is stating. Instead of many apps to have to deal with, It would be nice to have it all in one location. I know there are programs already out there, but this sounds like a fresh approach to the problem of keeping on a new healthy lifestyle.

I'm not completely ignorant on the topic but don't know enough about it to comment on it. However, I have to wonder about any HIPPA violations Apple needs to take into consideration when reading and storing health data tied to any PII. Might limit what they can do.

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Healthbook might be exactly like Passbook, allowing other apps to display their information in one place, like most airlines, starbucks do in the Passbook app. This would allow you to get the information you want at one place and yet allow the apps to exist as standalone too