Apple adds spirometry data tracking to Health app

By Jonah Comstock
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MySpirooIn the latest update to the iOS 8 beta, Apple added a number of health-related features, according to various reports. Most notably, the company added a data tracking capability for spirometry, which is data about how obstructed the lungs are collected by people with conditions like asthma or COPD.

Apple announced its Health app and HealthKit developer package at its WWDC event in June. The app will allow users to store the data from any number of health and fitness tracking devices in a single app that will come preloaded on future Apple mobile devices. From there it could potentially, with users' permission, make that data available to their doctor or hospital. 

There are no smartphone connected spirometers on the market right now, but several companies working on that technology are close to launching. MySpiroo, a Polish company, has developed a smartphone-connected peak flow meter that plugs into the phone's headphone jack. They have completed a prototype and plan to launch their second version soon. In addition, a Greek company called Respi, a member of DreamIt Health's latest accelerator class, is also building a smartphone spirometer. And Breathometer, the smartphone-connected breathalyzer device that has backing from Mark Cuban, could potentially move into that space as well.

Apple might be proactively preparing its app to interface with a device market that doesn't yet exist, or the spirometry feature could be designed, instead, to interface with medical devices in a hospital setting or accept manual inputs from users with non-connected spirometers or peak flow meters. We're guessing Apple isn't looking to integrate data from apps that claim to offer spirometry tracking by having users blow onto the phone's microphone.

This isn't the first indication that respiratory disease will be a focus for the health app -- the original beta already had "Inhaler Usage" as the sole section under its medication tab. As we noted in our In-Depth on HealthKit's tracking potential, both Gecko Cap and Propeller Health have developed sensors that connect to asthma or COPD rescue inhalers and collect data when the inhaler is used. In addition, pharmaceutical company Opko Health recently acquired an Israeli smart inhaler company, Inspiro Medical, and will begin to offer its inhaler bundled with particular Opko drugs. Any of those sensors could potentially integrate with the Health app down the line.

According to Computer World, the new update adds new data to the list of crucial stats that can be accessed even when the phone is locked. That screen will now include allergies and blood type -- two pieces of information useful to doctors in an emergency situation. In addition, a Health option has been added to the iOS's privacy panel in the new update, according to VentureBeat. VentureBeat says there will be one more update before the operating system officially launches.