Last week, Google continued gearing up for the fall launch of the next major version of Android, Android L, with the release of a preview SDK for Google Fit.
As the name suggests, Google Fit is a fitness data platform that gives consumers the ability to record and use their fitness data. Using the Google Fit SDK, developers will be able to build fitness-related apps that work on Android devices, including wearables and other connected devices such as digital scales.
The Google Fit SDK offers access to three APIs:
- A Sensors API that enables applications to access device sensors so that they can gather fitness activity data such as heart rate.
- A Recording API that provides a means for applications to sync that fitness data with the cloud.
- A History API that gives developers the ability to retrieve and manipulate fitness data after the fact.
According to Google, it is working with a number of high-profile partners to build an ecosystem of fitness apps and devices. These include brands like Nike and Adidas, as well as hardware manufacturers including Intel, LG and HTC.
But there's plenty of room for app developers of all shapes and sizes, and Google wants to give them the opportunity to get a head start developing their fitness apps before Google Fit makes its official debut later this year. To support developers, Google has set up a developer community on Google+.
A New Battleground for Google and Apple?
The health and fitness market could soon become one of biggest battlegrounds for Google as it competes with Silicon Valley rival Apple. In June, the iPhone maker unveiled HealthKit, its own platform for health and fitness apps.
The heavy investment in health and fitness will present numerous opportunities for developers, but also some challenges. As Forbes contributor Ewan Spence observed, "If you are already invested in either iOS or Android you are pretty much locked in to that platform’s vision of health and fitness before you even start. More importantly, you will need to accept that any data captured by the respective platforms will be used in accordance with that platform’s view on customer data."
Developers will also need to understand the legal implications of building fitness apps that make use of health data. As ProgrammableWeb's Eric Zeman detailed, some apps may need to adhere to HIPAA guidelines, and failure to do so could have serious consequences.
Challenges aside, the success of Google Fit and Apple HealthKit will ultimately be determined by consumer demand for the devices and apps built on these platforms. While there is good reason to be excited about the space, the market for wearable activity tracking devices is still well under $1 billion, suggesting that Google, Apple and their partners will have a lot of work to do driving demand and usage before app developers can expect to cash in.