Apple, I See What You Did There. Health isn’t just a cool feature within iOS8, it points to Apple’s next device–the iWatch.
At WWDC last month, Apple’s software guy, Craig Federighi, shared the story of Apple’s new feature in iOS8 called Health, which is basically a health dashboard on your iPhone. (Watch the 3-minute video on YouTube.) It’s easy to understand what this could be about because people rock those Fitbit things on their wrists to count their steps. And if you like to jog or cycle, there are many iPhone apps that you can download to track your progress.
Apple’s Craig Federighi tries to keep a straight face as he shows the new Health platform residing on an iPad. “Just kidding it’s meant for the iWatch.”
So Apple’s Health will be a sexier, more interesting version of what we’re already familiar with. But really, Apple wouldn’t go here if this little Health dashboard was just about counting how many steps you took between your desk and the bathroom at work.
Very casually, Mr. Federighi told the 5000 software developers in the room that Apple’s new Healthkit would let them build health and biometric applications. Just in case the audience wasn’t paying attention, Mr. Federighi told a story of how Apple worked with the Mayo Clinic to help measure their patient’s vital signs and then send essential data to their doctors.
Let’s get this out of the way. Do you think that the Mayo Clinic is going to hand out iPhones to each of their patients to track their vital signs? Of course not. Those phones will get lost, they’ll fall and shatter on the cold hospital floor, or they’ll take the plunge in the water and cease to exist. Plus they’re loaded with features that aren’t essential to healthcare.
Like any healthcare provider, the Mayo Clinic needs something that stays securely with the patient where it can most accurately track data. Mayo needs an iWatch.
Now think of the hardware gadgets that could sync up with the iWatch via Bluetooth. All those things with wires that are attached to people in hospitals–those things will be reinvented within the Apple ecosystem. The iWatch will pull vital data, port it through the cloud, and then sort it out for doctors to review on their iPads as they walk down the hospital hallways. (Of course, we’ll have iMacs running at all the nursing stations. The nurses will make the rounds with iPads too. You get the idea.)
Imagine the possibilities! This is is more than just tracking a heartbeat, blood pressure levels, and general physical activity. This is about considering specialized areas within health and wellness and dreaming about how to make it better.
Here’s my story. I’m a father of four children. I’ve gone through the stress of trying to time contractions and measure the space in between so we could have a clue about when to go to the hospital to deliver this baby. I’ve felt ill-equipped standing there with my stopwatch from my years on the high school track team. On our first child, we barely made it to the hospital in time for delivery. On our second child, we missed it altogether and had to deliver the baby in the car on the side of the freeway. This stuff is hard. I would totally buy my wife an iWatch and install an app that tracked her contracts and facilitated communications with the baby doctor. I’m willing to bet that millions of other new parents would do the same. Now imagine all the other specialized parts of health services. The potential is massive.
$55,000,000,000 in Venture Capital. Really?
I made that number up because I have no idea how much is invested each year on healthcare devices, healthcare software, and healthcare widgets. But I’m guessing that it’s somewhere between 5% and 100% of our GDP.
Is this Apple’s next device?
Now imagine just a small slice of that capital redirected to health apps and health peripherals that–of course–all work magically because it’s an Apple platform where hardware and software are seamless. We could have better patient care. We could eliminate some administrative inefficiencies. And these success stories–even if they’re relatively small–will bring a larger slice of VC into Apple’s health ecosystem. Then we have even better patient care, followed by even more capital. It’s an upward spiral.
At the risk of being hyperbolic, we could be in the early days of a legit healthcare revolution. This is not far-fetched. Lest we forget, Apple has revolutionized several industries in the last 15 years:
- In 2001, Apple helped the music industry save itself when it introduced iTunes and later the iPod.
- In 2007, Apple debuted the first legit smart phone with the iPhone. Software reinvented itself and social media entered a new era.
- In 2010, Apple released the iPad and gave old guard newsprint and magazine publishers a chance to reinvent themselves. Apple reinvented software, again. And Apple casually tapped into all those education dollars too. The iPad is the new textbook.
Now in 2014, Apple is poised to release the iWatch and give healthcare a new wave of innovation.
What if I’m wrong here? Would Apple introduce the iWatch knowing that the insanity of modern healthcare could make it or break it? Of course not. The iWatch will shine because it revolutionized sports training. It will be the #1 training tool for everyone: running, cycling, swimming, sailing, motorsports.
But I’m hoping for a healthcare revolution.
*Oh and before you get skeptical because of the bureaucracy around Health Information Privacy, remember that Apple started to solve this problem when it released iPhone 5S almost a year ago. Watch this video again and notice how Apple explained 30 times how the fingerprint ID stores information in a Fort Knox within your phone, far away from hackers and all that riff raff.