Not letting Apple’s HealthKit have all the fun, Microsoft is also getting in the fitness game with Health, their own attempt to make users healthier using technology. Microsoft Health works with the company’s own wearable fitness tracker, known as the Microsoft Band, which retails for $199. A smart bracelet you wear on a 24-7 basis, Band tracks heart rate and a host of other fitness related telemetry.
One major difference between Microsoft’s health and fitness solution and the Apple HealthKit, which only works with the iPhone or the new Apple Watch, is Microsoft Health is a cross-platform solution compatible with Android, iOS, and of course, Microsoft Windows and Windows Phone. In fact, the Microsoft Band also shares data with a host of popular third-party health tracking software, like RunKeeper, MapMyFitness, and MyFitnessPal.
It seems Microsoft is trying to champion openness compared to Apple’s infamous “walled-garden” which is now apparently a “walled-gym” when it comes to fitness software. Here is a closer look at the features and functionality of Microsoft Health.
An Open Cloud-based Solution for Tracking your Family’s Health and Fitness
With Health, Microsoft has built an open, Cloud-based application for analyzing you and/or your family’s heath and fitness data. The key word is “open.” In addition to getting health tracking data from the Microsoft Band, the system also accepts data from a wide range of third-party activity tracking devices, smartphones, and other health-tracking apps.
Microsoft hopes that other health software and hardware providers will collaborate on their vision for an open platform for fitness. Microsoft leverages its own HealthVault repository to actually store the fitness data in the Cloud. HealthVault has been active since 2007, so if you are already a user of that service, you gain the added analytical capabilities of the new Health service on your historical data.
Actionable Insights to Improve Your Fitness
Microsoft Health essentially analyzes your stored health data — no matter where it came from — and offers you actionable insights to improve your overall fitness. If you want to check what exercise routines give you the most bang for the buck when it comes to burning calories, Health provides the real-time analysis to let you choose what routine to perform today.
As you continue to use Health, the expert systems in its software improve their fitness recommendations to you. The more data you share with Health; the better its advice becomes. As more software developers and fitness device makers support the system, expect new innovations in usability and functionality.
It will be interesting to see how successful Microsoft is in attracting others to build and develop for Health. It really is a litmus test for the commercial success of an open Cloud-based platform around a niche topic like fitness.
The Microsoft Band is a Key Part of the Health Platform
While Microsoft Health is an open platform with support for fitness data from a wide array of third-party devices, Microsoft would love for you to buy its Microsoft Band smart bracelet. Like other fitness wearables, Band tracks your heart rate, calories burned, steps taken, and more, while providing you calendar updates and email previews. It works with Android, iOS, and Windows Phone.
Early reviews have been mixed, but generally note the future promise of the device as well as the overall Health platform. In fact, the success of both Band and Health are probably interrelated. Even with support for third-party health software and fitness devices, the actual analysis provided by Microsoft Health needs to be truly actionable for people to keep using it.
With all three of the tech giants — Apple, Google, and Microsoft — developing their own health and fitness platforms, a choice between the three ultimately depends on your personal preference. With Microsoft Health promising compatibility with fitness devices and tracking software from other manufacturers, their strategy for an open platform might give Redmond an upper hand when all is said and done. Stay tuned, fitness buffs.