Having plunked down a cool 2.1 billion bucks to buy Fitbit last year, Google has now revealed at least one of its plans: Device Connect for Fitbit. The idea is to offer the wearable data that Fitbit collects — including heart rate variability, breathing rate, sleep scores, and overall activity — to healthcare providers and others. And integrate that data with other health-related information. Google says the Device Connect initiative has three main goals: helping to manage chronic conditions, advancing clinical research, and positively impacting overall health in the population.
As one would expect from Google, the data will be searchable. Through a “data connector” tool, information that’s collected by Fitbits will be integrated with the analytics engine Google Cloud BigQuery, as well as the Cloud Healthcare application programming interface (API) to synch the information with clinical data. A new analytics dashboard, designed to provide fast insights in a variety of clinical settings, uses machine learning and AI. Outside of the hospital, the tools can be used to provide pre- and post-surgery patient monitoring and for other remote uses. Addressing privacy concerns, Fitbit users control what data they share through the Fitbit Web API.
Health equity is also a stated goal. Building on Fitbit’s commitment to address healthcare disparities, Device Connect for Fitbit will combine social determinants of health (SDoH) and demographic information with Fitbit data to offer better insights into health-related disparities that exist across geographic, social, and economic divides. The conjoined data could shed more light on a variety of such issues, including the disproportionate number of cases of obesity among children in low-income families and unequal childbirth and pregnancy risks due to racial factors. The plan is to provide these insights to researchers and organizations.
Google clearly holds the power balance in this relationship dynamic. But sentiment about the respective companies leans in Fitbit‘s favor; selling more than 127 million devices with about 111 million users in more than 100 countries, Fitbit has some of the world’s most-popular wearables. And Google? Americans have some serious trust issues with the tech giant, especially when it comes to health-related matters. An seoClarity survey found that 21% of respondents don’t think Google works with medical professionals to vet health questions, while 18.4% aren’t sure. Overall, more than 1 in 5 people who responded to the survey don’t trust Google.