Mobile solutions are more than apps, Part 2: Adding new features to healthcare products

Marc Andreessen, the famous venture capitalist and technologist, once said that software is “eating the world.” While that is true, a very good case can be made for apps and mobile solutions also taking part in the feast.

New possibilities

Apps are changing how other products work, both in and of themselves and also by apps’ ability to constantly update and provide new features to other products. Where you might have had a product that performed one or two things before for its entire useful life, that product can now pair wirelessly with an app running on your smartphone. This opens up a world of bidirectional communications possibilities, allowing a staid device to integrate into the world of cloud-based services with new features.

New entrants in the healthcare device market

When it comes to tying an app with a physical product, one area of innovation is in the healthcare space. Consider Apple’s HealthKit, a developer framework for iOS applications that focuses on building in telemetry from a user’s biological profile into apps and mobile solutions that originate in the health and fitness sectors. Though some of these apps can be vanity cases and the product itself is the iPhone, the Apple Watch or the iPad — such as a run tracker, an exercise heartbeat monitor or a step counter — many health device manufacturers are expanding into this market as well. For instance, Johnson & Johnson subsidiary LifeScan uses HealthKit to share data from its companion app to its OneTouch Verio Sync Meter (a glucose monitor for patients with diabetes) with other third-party apps through the Apple framework.

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Google is not to be left out of this discussion, either. The healthcare market is full of products that begin their life as wearables (devices you will have on your person at all times). This is generally made possible through Android Wear, the hardware and sensor “table stakes” option, but there is more possible through Google Fit, a similar offering to Apple’s Healthkit. Google Fit tracks activity times, activity types, calories, pedaling rate, wheel speed, distance, heart rate, demographics such as height and weight, steps taken and elevation.

Devices that use Google Fit-based companion apps include watches from Fossil and Motorola, which do the predictable things, but also innovative devices such as the Withings Aura, a product that merges a smart light with an alarm that monitors your sleep patterns and puts out colored light that purportedly enhances your sleep and wakes you gently at alarm time. That product doesn’t exist without the smarts of a good app and a good app framework behind it.

A smart glucose meter and a smart heart or blood pressure monitor provide improved services in the healthcare sector. You can see where these products become far more useful when paired with apps that give them intelligence and new capabilities.

This is Part 2 of the “Mobile solutions are more than apps series.” Check back soon for Part 3, which will discuss mobile apps in the finance industry, and be sure to catch up on Part 1, “How apps can make or break retail products.”

Written By

Jonathan Hassell

President, 82 Ventures

Jonathan Hassell runs 82 Ventures, a technical writing and consulting firm based in Charlotte, NC. He centers his focus around network administrator, security, the cloud, and mobile technologies.

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