Apple’s WWDC 2022 Health and Fitness Announcements

“If you zoom out into the future, and you look back, and you ask the question, ‘What was Apple’s greatest contribution to mankind?’ It will be about health.”

Tim Cook, CEO, Apple
Image Credit: Apple, Inc.

Apple fan-boys (including yours truly) around the world were tuned into the annual World-Wide Developers Conference (or “dub-dub” as we call it) this week to see what new software and hardware would be featured. The event was held in person at Apple Park in Cupertino, CA, this year, although the presentations were pre-recorded as they’ve done in the past two years. The opening keynote lasted almost two hours, with the usual parade of Apple executives and developers highlighting the latest updates to all software platforms and a few product announcements thrown in for good measure.

First, here’s a link to the YoutTube video of the event with the extract of the section on health presented by Dr. Sumball Desai, VP of Health for Apple starting at 49:25:00.

YouTube Video Credit: Apple, Inc

Here’s my summary of the announcements focused on health and fitness, with some comments about why I think each is important.

Watch OS 9– Apple Watch software includes several new features in the next release. First, the watch will now allow you to track your medications, allowing you to create a log of what medications you are taking, set up reminders to take your meds and track compliance, and warn you of potential drug interactions (currently, the U.S. only via an agreement with the publisher Elsevier), and scan your medicine bottles to input the medication information.

Image Credit: Apple, Inc.

Next, the new update allows you to track your atrial fibrillation history – an add-on feature to the existing AFib component of the software. The information will be stored in the Apple Health app and can be shared with your care provider as a pdf file.

The next release will also feature additional functions in the sleep function, including recording sleep stages (REM, “core,” “Deep,” and woke stages). This was a highly requested feature and well received by the developers and general audience.

Image Credit: Apple, Inc.

On the fitness front, Watch OS 9 will include some new running measurements, including vertical oscillation, stride length, and ground contact time. Also, the software will allow you to set up heart rate zones for things like triathlon mode and a custom workout.

Image Credit: Apple Inc.

“Even casual runners should benefit hugely from the ability to study their vertical oscillation, create custom workouts with their own distance and time intervals, or pace themselves against their own routes.”

Adrienne So, Wired

Why it’s important – The new functionality added to Watch OS 9 continues Apple’s commitment to innovate in the health and fitness space. But the biggest reason I think these will experience strong use is summarized in a single word – integration. The functionality introduced seamlessly integrates with the Apple Health App to allow the user to store critical health and fitness information in one place and easily share it with members of the health care team, all in a highly secure fashion. It puts the patient in control of their data, allows for easy sharing when and to whoever needs it and maintains patient privacy and security.

iOS 16 – A few functional additions to this next release that, while not directly health-related, tie into health and safety. First, Apple’s fitness app comes to the iPhone, even if you don’t have a Watch. Next, Family Sharing comes to the iPhone – even if only two accounts for the time being. This allows you to set up access functions for your kids or your parents if you are managing their health and safety remotely—a small start to be sure, but at least a start. The most important addition to this release from my perspective is Safety Check. If you’ve shared passwords with someone who later becomes abusive, you can tap Emergency Reset. One tap stops sharing your location; resets privacy permissions for all apps; signs out of Messages on all devices; restricts FaceTime and Messages to YOUR device in your hand.

Image Credit: Apple, Inc.

Why it’s important – Safety Check is the big news in this release. The fact that someone can stop location sharing, reset privacy permissions for all apps and limit FaceTime and Messages to the device in hand is crucial.

Finally, in another security-related feature, Apple introduced Passkeys in their next Mac software release, Mac OS Ventura. Passkeys is a next-generation credential that uses TouchID or FaceD. Behind the scenes, Passkeys supplies the password to the website or app. It can’t be leaked or phished. It even works when you’re using a computer (or PC) you don’t own, using a QR code on your iPhone. Passkey is Apple’s answer to the FIDO (Fast IDentity Online) authentication standard, which defines a fast and secure authentication mechanism for users to access websites and applications. Apple worked with members of the FIDO alliance, including Google and Microsoft, to ensure passkeys will work seamlessly across non-Apple devices, including the ability to use Passcodes via a QR code on the iPhone. Wide adoption will take time, but developers are already off and running in using Apple’s APIs to create solutions for their apps and products.

Image Credit: Apple, Inc.

Why it’s important – The FIDO alliance said its authentication creates more robust security by removing many of the problems that stem from password-based authentication and form authentication using traditional second steps. Specifically, FIDO authentication uses public-key cryptography. FIDO also helps to ensure that the credentials aren’t shared with malicious parties or other parties that do not own the credential, according to the alliance. Public key cryptography reduces the threat of potential database breaches.

So, there you have it—a summary of the new functionality coming into the Apple ecosystem. I’ll be looking forward to trying out these enhancements and seeing how well they work and how integrated they are into my daily workflow.

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