Google unveils Google Fit, a fitness platform for developers

By Aditi Pai
12:26 pm
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Google FitDuring the keynote of the Google I/O developer conference today, Google Play Product Manager Ellie Powers announced a new fitness platform for digital health app and device developers, called Google Fit, that aims to help people better track their fitness goals.

Specific rumors about this platform first surfaced last week.

Google announced Google Fit just a few weeks after Apple announced its HealthKit platform for iOS 8. While Apple's Health app could potentially integrate with -- not only activity trackers -- but also connected medical devices like glucometers and medication adherence apps, as the name implies, Google Fit seems to be focused squarely on fitness. Apple's HealthKit was also developed with input from the Mayo Clinic and is set to be integrated with Epic Systems' EHR. 

Similar to Samsungs SAMI platform, which was also recently announced, Google Fit provides developers with a single set of APIs so that different apps and devices can talk to each other so users can get more context around their various fitness metrics.

"Now, before Google Fit, I was trying to track and monitor my bike rides through my bike computer and my weight training through a specialized app," Powers said during the keynote. "And it was a huge hassle. The information was way too siloed to actually help me. Fit takes away the complexity of handling multiple sources, giving you a unified view of a user’s fitness activity. And this helps you create more comprehensive apps. So if a user grants permission, apps can have access to a user’s entire fitness stream to give better recommendations through this additional context."

Google Fit has already partnered with various companies that offer digital health apps and devices including LG, RunKeeper, Polar, Basis, Motorola, Asus, Noom, Withings, Adidas, and -- somewhat surprisingly -- even Nike, which has had a longtime relationship with Apple and only very recently launched an Android app.

"So for example, Noom is a weight loss coach app and they’ve been an early partner on Google Fit," Powers continued. "So, let’s just take a second to point out how the platform has helped Noom to enhance their app. You’ll see that Noom is able to combine my workouts, nutritional information, and my weight. And because it can talk directly to my Withings scale, it can let me know when my daily cookie habit gets just that little bit over board. So to centralize everything, Google Fit APIs allows fitness apps and brands to share your fitness activity, but only with your explicit permission."

Powers emphasized that the data Google Fit shares is always under a user's control and at any given point, users can erase their fitness data whenever they want. Developers can expect the platform preview SDK to be available in a few weeks. Powers did not mention whether Google Glass would interact with the platform.

Google has been working on various digital health projects since as early as 2006, when it launched Google Health, a personal health record system. The system lasted about five years. Google announced the shutdown of Google Health in 2011, with full functionality ending January 1, 2012. User data was available to be transferred elsewhere for an additional year. Around the same time, Google launched a service called Google Flu Trends, which researchers recently discovered appeared to have wide-reaching and systemic problems.

Perhaps that's why during the Google Fit unveiling, which was much more fitness-focused than Apple's HealthKit launch, Google didn't use the word "health" once.

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