App Hubs: the New App Overlords

Apple announced its new health app hub today at its annual developers conference: “Healthkit and the new Health app will combine data from various different health and fitness devices and apps, and make them accessible all in one place.” TechCrunch compared Health to Passport: “Passbook was launched as a single app where iOS users could store coupons, movie tickets, and other items.” Where Passport aggregates and provides easier access to money-related data from different apps, Health does the same for health-related apps.

Nike FuelBand: One of many fitness wearables providing health data. Credit: Wikipedia.org

Nike FuelBand: One of many fitness wearables providing health data. Credit: Wikipedia.org

The leaked prototypes look like a stack of cards with information from the different health and fitness apps and devices categorized by the data they provide.  Users will look at the “Sleep” card and get information from, say, the Jawbone sleep tracker but won’t necessarily be aware of the source of the data. With the plethora of health and fitness wearables available for consumers today, and with Apple’s foray into providing more health-monitoring apps, a centralized hub like Health makes a lot of sense.

There may be more room for several more of these smart aggregators. For example, the home. Several companies already provide a wide-range of app-controlled home appliances. Nest provides smart, app-controlled thermostats and smoke detectors, security systems provide app-controlled cameras, ISI provides app-controlled water heaters and so on. There will be more of these in the upcoming years, controlling every aspect of the home. Shouldn’t they all be aggregated into a “home” dashboard, sorted perhaps by room?

In a different sort of aggregation: video. More and more phones are being used as “remote controls” for video streaming to another screen, as a conduit more than a destination. Right now, when a user wants to watch a movie or TV show or sports event they first need to pick the application to stream it. Netflix? YouTube? CBS? WatchESPN? Having one aggregated video dashboard could allow for a master search by show, and not by application.

The exciting prospect is the thought of what other aggregators can be developed for phones. Last year the buzz was about wearables. This year it’s the “Internet of Things.” What will next year bring?

Update: Evidently I missed Apple’s announcement about HomeKit which will offer an easier way  for developers of home automation devices, most who already have apps, to integrate the apps’ functionality with iOS devices.

I like what Apple has done with this idea. My favorite is a hint at usability unification: “Because its all being developed under the Apple umbrella, your toaster will turn on in a similar way to your coffee maker, it’ll be a cohesive process.”

Integration with Siri will allow voice commands to control devices.

Grouping devices will enable a “single command can control them all. For example, Federighi said that just by saying, “Get ready for bed,” to your iPhone or iPad could result in automatically dimming the lights and locking the doors.”

It’s an exciting product, with a great future, and one which Apple can help shape.

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