Microsoft Introduces Fitness Tracker, Health App

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Following in the footsteps of Google, Samsung, and Apple, Microsoft has entered the fray and developed its own consumer healthcare strategy, which it is building around a new fitness tracker and a centralized health app. The resulting platform is being called Microsoft Health, and in a turn that may surprise some, it represents one of the most comprehensive health data aggregation platforms created to date.

Microsoft’s new health platform starts with its fitness tracker. The new tracker measures heart rate, steps taken, calories burned, and sleep quality. The tracker also houses a GPS, which allows it to track run distance without being tethered to a smartphone during the run, and provides something new to the fitness tracking space: UV monitoring to provide wearers with a better understanding about their UV exposure. Sleep tracking, UV monitoring, and an on board GPS push the basic health features of Microsoft’s new tracker beyond what most others are offering in the fitness tracker space, but the company doesn’t stop here. Borrowing inspiration from the emerging smartwatch market, the tracker also receives texts and provides some basic options for replying, displays email messages, calendar alerts, caller ID data, weather information, and app notifications from a paired smartphone. The tracker also provides a Siri-like personal assistant that Microsoft calls Cortana. Collectively, Microsoft’s new tracker brings an interesting mix of features to the table, blurring the line between a high-end activity tracker and a smartwatch.

Data from the fitness tracker is wirelessly transmitted to Microsoft’s new health app, called Microsoft Health. Unlike the offerings of other health platforms, Microsoft is launching apps for Android, iOS, and Microsoft phones. Regardless of which phone users prefer, Microsoft’s health app will aggregate data from both its fitness tracker and other consumer health apps on the phone. At launch, Microsoft had lined up Jawbone, MapMyFitness, MyFitnessPal, and RunKeeper as data-sharing contributors to its new platform. The company also says that it will integrate Health with HealthVault, Microsoft’s web-based personal health record. By connecting with HealthVault, Microsoft says users will be able to share fitness data with their primary care providers.

Microsoft also announced that all of the data captured by Health would be fed into its “Intelligence Engine” to create personalized workouts and recovery time recommendations. Microsoft is partnering with Gold’s Gym to support this initiative.

After years of work trying to transform itself into a consumer device company, Microsoft finally seems to be heading down the right track. The company’s smartphone line is still struggling to generate momentum, but its newest tablet, the Surface 3, is doing well and its new health platform seems comprehensive, well conceived, and even innovative. Perhaps its time to stop writing off Microsoft as a has-been technology company. 


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