An Apple a day…
Renown for their elegance in design and their often highly disruptive technological offerings that have, mostly consistently, delivered on performance throughout the years, Apple have recently released their new iPhones, accessories to go with them and updated versions of their wearables. The functionality of their devices have spanned into professional music production, photography and video, bringing all of this power into the hands of the people, albeit with a hefty price tag. So, who more appropriate, than Apple, to become one of the front-runners in developing a mobile digital health platform for their users?
Apple’s mobile devices have provided some outstanding products with their all singing all dancing solutions and their latest iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, released only days ago, are no less disruptive and impressive than their previous models. In fact, the company seem to have listened quite well to their customers over time when we consider the numerous improvements on offer – despite the iPhone 6 outer resemblance.
The iPhone 7 is supported by the new iOS 10 operating system; has a better camera; reliable wireless headphone capability (the W1 chip) offering in tandem, the airPods – a pair of wireless ear-plug headphones, which have been released with the new iPhone. Apple have gone a step further, as they have removed the normal headphone socket. Instead a lightning connector (which is the same type as that shared with their computers’ connectors) allow for the use, with the appropriate adapter, of normal wired headphones, but also for connectivity and interfacing in a whole host of other ways. This displays Apple’s deft ability at disruption, which is why they have been able to move so much faster in technical development than most of their competitors.
Both phones provide dual speakers, better graphics, longer battery-life, larger memory storage and syncing with their other new releases: The Apple Watch Series 1 and 2 and they have been able to produce this at a competitive price tag.
The Apple Watch and the iPhone combo, have pushed forward Apple’s HealthKit and ResearchKit on-board apps in providing powerful healthcare tools.
HealthKit and ResearchKit launched with iOS 8 which released a number of HealthKit enabled apps and with iOS 9 expanding this to new data points (the capability to track reproductive health data, etc.). Now with the release of iOS 10, further improvements have been promised: such as allowing their users to store health documents and data through harnessing the interoperability messaging standards: HL7 CCD (Health Level 7 Continuity of Care Document) and the CDA (Clinical Document Architecture) standard. This allows users to digitally store and share their health notes/data to enable the automatic digitisation and tracking of all the correspondence shared between healthcare professionals and patients.
This, like a kind of mobile health record, allows the user to see an overview of years of their relevant health data and with minimal effort from them directly. Add to this – true automatic health data input and integration of continuous monitors such as the inbuilt pedometer as well as from any synced Apple Watch wearable device – then we’re starting to see something resembling a whole healthcare package.
Apple have built-in appropriate measures to ensure that patient information is secure and released only upon acquiring appropriate permission when transferring information to their clinician, using authenticated log in and encrypted storage. With the increased storage capacity of the new iPhone 7 (there is a 256GB version), this becomes an attractive offering.
Onto the Apple Watch. The original Apple Watch (arguably the beta test version) has been super-ceded by the Apple Watch series 1 and 2. The series 2 is the serious fitness-focused wearable. It has a new S2 chip with a faster dual-core processor and built-in GPS; is swim proof and not just splash proof, and the “second-generation OLED Retina display is 2x brighter at 1000 nits versus 450 nits” according to 9-TO-5Mac. However, even though the watch can sync with the iPhone, the lack of cellular functionality on the wearable itself is a drawback for users who might prefer to leave their smartphones (precious and heavy as they are) back home, whilst they are out on their daily jog.
Despite some minor issues, the important reason for citing all of these general improvements developed in the iPhone 7 series and the Apple Watch series 2, is to remind ourselves that in order for mobile devices to actually work to improve health and fitness, they need to make it easier for users to use and re-use them, so functionalities such as the inbuilt wireless headphones, longer battery life, larger storage capacity, GPS-tracking, brighter screens, true waterproofing, etc., (all at a more affordable price tag), increases the chances that users will use their wearables, devices, apps and tools repeatedly – which is the crux of improving health. On top of this, though we may not know just how yet, the improved camera, sound and graphics capability of the new Apple phones may also provide future new tools to help support people’s health and fitness even better.