Apple’s new CoreMotion API: A Boon for Quantified Self and Security-focused Developers

With the upcoming release of the new iPhone 5S, mobile health applications and quantified self capacities take another leap forward. Developers will have a new CoreMotion API through which they can access a stream of personal health and sensor tracking data from a smartphone, even while the iPhone is at rest.

The new M7 motion-sensing chip which will be at the core of the new iPhone and enables a steady stream of sensor data to be collated and accessed via the CoreMotion API. Previously, a smartphone needed to be in active mode, not sleep mode, to transmit sensor data to API requests.

Technology news website GigaOm – which has been tracking the recruitment of new Apple execs with mobile health and personal data experience – calls the CoreMotion API a “trojan horse” aimed at transforming smartphones into wearable sensor technology. Amid rumors of an iWatch and the growing demand for API-driven wearable tech like Pebble (for which Amazon online has run out of stock and can only offer 14 of the e-paper Pebble models instead, as of today), the personal health tracking and quantified self movement is expected to be a significant growth area over the next five years, with strong demand for API developer skills to match emerging product and service roadmaps. Applications for remote patient monitoring are considered one of the key drivers behind Research and Market’s forecast that the mobile health economy will climb to $59.7 billion by 2018. In the shorter term – over the next 18 months - Juniper Research believes most growth will be driven by an increasing demand for fitness apps and lifestyle tracking tools.

API Evangelist Kin Lane argues that the Quantified Self is a major opportunity in the realm of the Internet of Things. This is certainly the experience of the QS Labs, which organizes the Global Quantified Self conference. Speaking with ProgrammableWeb ahead of their next conference in October, organizer Ernesto Ramirez said:

“Health is at the top of what people are thinking about when they are thinking about quantified self. We have seen people collecting personal data to better understand how they can reduce stress and lose weight, but the big growth is in using personal health data for those who have a chronic condition. They are asking: what do I really need to know to manage my health. For example, one company uses QS data to see where people with asthma are using their inhaler and at what time, in order to see if particular places and times may be affecting inhaler use.”

While API developers with an interest in QS, personal data tracking, health and fitness may be looking to what opportunities will arise with the release of the CoreMotion API, those with a security focus are set to be in even stronger demand. Corporations with a BYOD policy will need to address the CoreMotion API’s propensity to be always on and sharing sensor data. As reported by Antone Gonsalves on CSO Online, emerging studies are showing that GPS data can help identify individual users, while motion sensors included as part of a smartphone’s accelerometer and gyroscope could reveal keystrokes on a touchscreen.

Be sure to read the next Health article: Practice Fusion Lands New Funding and Will Expand API Offering