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Do You Really Want to Give Google Your Health Data?

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(Update: Google took on Apple in the health arena yesterday with the launch of Google Fit. The company announced the new initiative at its Google I/O Developers Conference in San Francisco.

Google Fit is an open fitness and health tracking platform. The platform SDK will be available in just a few weeks.

The news comes just a few weeks after after Apple announced HealthKit at its Worldwide Developers Conference. HealthKit, which will be bundled with Apple's new iOS 8, is a hub where you can monitor daily health stats and track data over time.)

If reports are right, Google will announce its second attempt to tap into health data at its annual developer-focused conference in California. The event, Google I/O, runs today and tomorrow at San Francisco's Moscone Center West.

There's speculation Google will announce the launch of Google Fit, a new aggregation platform for data collected from and gathered by wearable tech and health monitoring devices.

What should you know about this — or at least consider?

Google Knows … Everything

Some might remember Google’s first shot at tapping into health data with the Google Health platform it launched six years ago. The 2008 launch was ambitious, to say the least: Google Health wanted to standardize health records and act as the aggregation and storage platform for the data.

But it was relatively short lived. Google felt pushback from patients and healthcare providers alike and shuttered the service in 2011.

The aim is different this time around. With Google Fit, Google wants to tap into the treasure trove of information that users are generating via their wearable devices. Information such as activity level, sleep, heart rate, sun exposure and caloric intake are just the beginning, as more sophisticated sensors are developed and deployed in wearable’s this data pool will expand exponentially.

Google will likely face far less push back now than then because the perception of privacy surrounding fitness data is far lower than it generally is for health records. While most people rightfully feel squeamish about allowing the search giant to manage and standardize their medical records, letting it be the clearinghouse for their fitness data doesn’t seem to have the same stigma attached to it.

But Not So Fast

While the issues of privacy surrounding data collected from wearable tech might not undergo the same scrutiny as health records maintained by physicians, it should not go overlooked. Like anything in the Internet of Things (IoT) space security and privacy have to be considered. There are many reasons health records have such stringent standards for privacy and the handling of data. And it is still unclear where data collected from wearable devices will fit into that framework.

Another feather in the cap for Google heading into the Google Fit platform is the launch of Android Wear. An operating system for wearable devices, it follows in the footsteps of the Android platform for mobile devices in that it allows companies to develop their wearable tech on an open platform — a platform developed by and supported by Google, which has all the necessary tie-ins to other Google services, such as Google Fit.

Google has already developed strong partnerships with large hardware developers like Samsung, Sony, HTC and LG, which use its Android Platform on their handsets. That leaves little question regarding their adoption of Android Wear for their wearable devices or the likelihood they will tap into Google Fit. 

There's More

While the established players in the handset market are shaping up to be significant factors in the wearable tech space, they certainty will not be the only players. There are plenty of startups in the wearable space that could be prime candidates for adopting Android Wear as well.

Companies like Misfit, Jawbone, Fitbit and Pebble, to name a few, could be well positioned to adopt Android Wear into their product line. If they do, it will give Google that much more leverage in the wearable space and allow it to tap into that much more data.

The Big Question

Now that we know Google will have the data and how they it will get it, we still have another question to answer.

What will it do with it?

Well, a lot of things, more then likely. Of course, there will be targeted ads for products and services based off analysis of your health data coupled with other data sets Google has about us. There will likely be options for tailored health and fitness plans, and no doubt a slew of ways to market your data to health service professionals.

We'll have to wait for the big reveal at Google I/O to get all the details.

This all leads us to a very interesting place. Wearable tech is hot right now and big data has been hot for a while. Now Google is putting the two together and carving out a big piece of the health data pie for itself, or at least it’s hoping to.

Google more than likely learned a great deal from its first romp in health data. It learned what lines not to cross, not right away anyway. And now that Google will likely control a large piece of the wearable tech market with its Android Wear, it will have a great foundation to build off of if they ever want to dip their toes into medical records again.

Title image by Asa Aarons / all rights reserved.

 
 
 
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