Google Fit and Apple Health & Research Kits for Health and Fitness App Development

Google Fit and Apple Health & Research Kits for Health and Fitness App Development

Here we look at the frameworks & libraries offered by Apple & Google (Google Fit and Apple Healthkit, Research and CareKit) and compare its functionality, helping you choose the best option for your own health & fitness app. We also offer a brief Healthkit vs Google Fit comparison.

The 20th century was a century of emancipation, socially accepted smoking and great music. 21st century is more likely to be a century of artificial intelligence and healthy lifestyle trends.

As we have already pointed in our article Healthcare App Development, healthcare innovations are the greatest hype these days. We can sleep, run and train better; we can recognize, diagnose and monitor illnesses with only gadgets. There are a few types of helpful apps, and a few purposes they cover. As it always is, the two major players on the scene are Apple and Google.

What do they offer for health and fitness apps?

1. Apple Kits

As Apple states on their official website, doctors these days use iPhones to transform the way we think about health. Health-transforming frameworks could be counted by 3: HealthKit, ResearchKit and CareKit.

HealthKit Framework

healthkit apple

HealthKit is widely used open source framework, aimed at letting you track the activities you do on a daily basis (like sleeping, steps/moves taken, calories burnt, etc.) Though HealthKit is best working together with Apple Watch or different fitness trackers - than it’s functionality also includes pulse and heart rate, helpful for fitness and other shape-keeping classes.
One of the examples of the integrated HealthKit is famous MiBand Bracelet that uses Apple’s HealthKit to measure many metrics, and can easily synchronize with iPhone’s Health. Another great thing about HealthKit is it’s analytical part - it analyzes the data stored from user’s body, and provides feedback on user’s health improvements or declines.

ResearchKit

Same as Health Kit, ResearchKit is an open-source project, that has a tight connection to HealthKit. Though, it is mostly aimed on helping with medical research and diagnosis.

So say you are a doctor who is working with a group of patients with a rare disease (like Parkinson’s disease). You need to be regularly updated about patient’s state and any changes in it. But it is immensely hard for you to receive condition updates from your patients. Manually checks don’t work - you can’t have the whole group interviewed daily. Written surveys won’t work either - patients are not as qualified as you are, so they can’t monitor all the minor changes that happen. So how can you watch your patients more efficiently? Here Research Kit comes into play.

apple researchkit features

ResearchKit has a number of features useful for both medics and inmates:

  • Surveys that let you ask relevant questions, allowing to estimate patient’s real condition

  • Microphone function for illness research - patients need to say a phrase within a time limit, and this phrase is later on sent to the server for further processing

  • Dexterity and gait measurement - patients are asked to tap on the screen with one or another hand, and the data collected is sent over to the server for further analysis

  • Mental abilities analysis - tasks on logic with a time limit set

  • Thinking processes & color test with tasks to check our critical thinking and color blindness (an example below)

ResearchKit is a great library to implement if your app is for patients or doctors, and requires tools for health condition monitoring or data gathering; as the more data there is - the more likely scientists are able to find a cure from a disease.

CareKit

carekit apple features

This framework is aimed at personal usage mostly, as it allows a user to monitor his own disease and its condition. You can track your glucose levels (for diabetics), monitor you post-heart attack condition (Care Card mode in Care Kit) and reach out if you need your doctor’s consultation.

These are the products for healthcare & fitness Apple currently offers for the market. Though the list would not be complete without the main competitor - Google, and it’s healthcare solution.

2. Google Fit

google fit features

Even the slogan Google advertises this product under (“Set fitness goals. Monitor your progress. Get to a healthier you.”)points out on the main between Google Fit and Healthkit - it is more sport-oriented. As an open source ecosystem, it works mostly as a fitness tracker, allowing users to measure:

  • Calories burnt

  • Steps taken

  • Distance traveled

  • Actively spent time

Another factor signaling the sport approach Google took are the countless partnerships with popular sportswear and equipment - like Nike, Adidas, Polar, Runkeeper and many more on. It also works best when paired with Android Wear

Google Fit and Healthkit for developers

The main difference between Google Fit, CareKit and HealthKit lies in purpose they serve for.

HealthKit is a perfect match for you if you are:

  • Targeting iOS devices
  • Are interested in serving creation of a fitness (e.g. yoga) app, where you could track users’ indicators
  • Are looking to create a sleep -tracker. Some time ago HealthKit would also measure the phases of users’ sleep, but this feature is no longer present on the platform - perhaps they needed more accuracy with measurement.

ResearchKit and CareKit accomplish different goals, particularly:

  • Online medical survey apps
  • In-app mental an physical tests, which occur in state-controlling medical apps
  • Medicinal apps aimed at data gathering (for the sake of ground-breaking research)

Google Fit, in its turn, is a good choice if you are:

  • Targeting Android users who are keen on sport
  • Interested in motivational or goal-setting app in terms of sport & fitness
  • Would like to develop a fitness app for your own sport brand

Insights if You Choose Google Fit and Healthkit for Mobile App Development

1.Google Fit API collects and manages sensitive user data, so it is important you follow these main principles:

  • Always clearly explain to the user what data you will collect and why
  • Honor user requests to delete their data
  • If you read fitness data from Google Fit, you must also write the fitness data you collect to Google Fit
  • Do not use Google Fit APIs for non-fitness purposes, such as storing medical or biometric data, selling data, or using data for advertising
  • Carefully review the Google Fit Terms and Conditions before using Google Fit

[Source: Google]

  1. HealthKit, ResearchKit and CareKit data API all have additional rules to comply to with health and fitness apps. Apple has devoted a separate section of guidelines, devoted to healthcare. It includes a few extra regulations like:

Data used by all 3 Kits may not be disclosed to third parties
Apps must not provide false or inaccurate information in HealthKit, and may not sync data with iCloud
All the data could be processed only after user agrees to it (all apps must obtain a written consent)
If your app is intended to be used by kids, apart from HIPPA, it also needs to comply with COPPA - Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or other globally accepted equivalents

[Source: Apple Guidelines]

We have dabbled and played with ResearchKit, implementing the framework; so that it is clear now what to do with it and which research is it capable of.

Here it is - Google Fit vs HealthKit for fitness app comparative analysis. Health-related applications require more time spent on development and research, as well as on standards fulfillment. Though, our practise suggests that innovations get born in the hard way - so maybe the time to make this world a better, fitter and healthier place has come?

Written by Sergey Degtyar and Elina Bessarabova

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