Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Goodbye Fitbit - Hello Google

A Jonathan Black Observation. 

The gist, though not as scandalous on first sight, the headline could use some further thought. It seems that Fitbit is phasing out Fitbit accounts and replacing them with Google accounts.

Nothing too crazy here since Fitbit was officially acquired by Google back in January 2021. As clearly seen by Google's long and sometimes firm handed history of putting the cart before the horse where tech mergers and acquisitions are concerned, often leading to an overcrowded 'open-source' Cluster-F#ck of nameless apps that all do relatively the same thing, that is except, effectively communicate between apps or, in many cases, having no lines of communication with the very company that just bought them out. 

(SIDENOTE - After all these years I still default to Maps even though feel Waze is a way better app. However, it just doesn't feel "right" or 'the same' since Google got it's game on and thrashed them from the open market to their Too bad, then we'd be one step closer to the MegaApp that just syncs, backups and organizes everything, communicates seamlessly between brands and has a UI that makes the 90-year-old Gramma think she's got some serious hacker skills. Talk about 'waxing poetic.') 

Google has since been trying to find ways to bring the two ecosystems closer together. A few benefits are 'Single logins, Account security and Centralized privacy controls for Fitbit user data.'

This clearly explains the upcoming Pixel Watch dubbed with the official “Fitbit by Google” branding. It's no surprise. Even the PIXEL 6 PRO I'm currently writing this article on has integrated Google Fit to a whole new level in the smartphone market - the PIXEL being able to measure your respiratory rate by simply recording your chests movements in under a minute or even taking your heart rate by pressing the tip of your finger over the camera's lens. 

Even the Nest Hub (2nd gen) joined the game and has been quoted as "a great bedside companion. With a Sleep Sensing subscription, Nest Hub (2nd gen) tracks when you go to bed and wake up, and how long you’ve slept. Plus it gives personalized insights and recommendations."

Indeed it does. I was lucky enough to be sent a Nest Hub (2nd gen) and will be reviewing it shortly. For now, it's only important to note that while it doesn't have a traditional camera, it does have 'Sleep Sensing and uses Motion Sense to track the sleep of the person closest to the display. Motion Sense uses a low-energy radar to detect movement and breathing. Other sensors in Nest Hub (2nd gen) detect sounds like snoring and coughing and environmental factors like light and temperature in the room.'

So, why the added commentary on other Google Health projects if only an article about my favorite fitness band?

I think it goes without saying that for years Google has been silently securing its place in the medical field and posing itself to be leading the way in cutting-edge competition for the future of the industry. 

New programs sprout everyday and many are lesser known or don't necessarily scream "I'm with Google" in a cry for attention. 

There's Google Health Studies, a quiet app in the Play store that "lets you securely contribute to health research studies with leading institutions, right from your phone. Volunteer for studies that matter to you and represent your community." 

Or there's Project Baseline, an app I originally stumbled upon in Search advertising itself as a way out of depression by participating in clinical research from home to help change the world. Indeed, bold claim. "Project Baseline connects people with opportunities to advance science, in a way that’s easy, meaningful, and blends with daily life." 

You can participate from home, find research opportunities that fit your health and interests, and do activities for studies you’ve joined through Baseline. 'Research areas include COVID-19, heart health, irritable bowel disease, mental health, sleep, and many more. You may also get the chance to test new technology.'

Note that last interesting piece of information and careful, you could have a stampede on your hands. 

Even more interesting is Google Care Studio, an app in Early Access that is set to reshape Electronic Medical Records as we know it. Stating: 

"Care Studio App by Google Health enables authorized clinical users to easily search a patient's record, review the most recent physician notes, view a patient's lab trends and more right from their phone.

"Developed by clinicians for clinicians, Care Studio uniquely harmonizes patient information from different EHR systems into a simple, centralized view streamlining key clinician workflows, so that teams can quickly get the information they need to care for patients.

"Care Studio is a medical record search engine and is designed to support clinicians in providing patient care. It displays information in response to natural language queries using a variety of data indexing, scoring, and retrieval systems.

"Care Studio complements electronic health records and other clinical decision support tools implemented by provider organization. It is only available for use by authorized representatives of organizations that license Care Studio and that have been assigned a login by the organization's administrator.

"Care Studio is designed to adhere to industry-wide regulations, including HIPAA. Our contracts and applicable law allow us to use the data only to provide Care Studio services as defined in the business associate agreement (BAA). Google does not own, nor do we ever sell patient data. Data from Care Studio cannot be used for advertising. User data is not connected to data from other Google apps. When collected, it is used to support HIPAA compliance, including ensuring access controls and audits." 

Tie this into the new updates with Android 13 which are making finding care for Medicare/Medicaid recipients easier and more apparent in search engine listings as well as optimizing Insurance Marketplace solutions for everyone and it all sounds like one fun, simple jump in the right direction for managed care in the United States alone.

That is, if you trust Google. 

After all, this all sprouts from the brainchild of what's essentially the World's Largest Advertising and Media Company. 

We've come a long way from the harmless choice of ticking our default search engine into a world of entire databases of archived information containing everything from height and weight to social security number and banking information, to sexual identity and medical diagnosis. 

Every word you've ever written online, every comment on social media, every midnight order to Dominoes or log in to Grindr for something more interesting is on record, emblazoned in code in the eternal ink we've come to so easily share, sell or wave the 'terms & conditions' of all with the single download and launch of basically any available Android app. I guess the soul has always been seen as a commodity to some extent. 

But, this isn't a doom piece and while I know many out there share the concern for some live-action version of "Skynet" deleting our hope for the future by whatever form the metaphorical 'terminator' would take, I'm not so sure. 

It all comes down to the fact that with such advances in technology and the need to have access to these data points comes the give-and-take approach of privacy practices. 

If we're to have the benefits, it will always come with risk and as always it starts with a leap of faith in the hands of the consumer. 

Personally, the way I see it, if it wasn't Google it'd be Apple or Microsoft or some other tech giant vying for number one and say what you will about Google, I feel my data is relatively safe and mostly in my control within my Google account. Notice words like relatively and mostly. 

I'm not walking blindly into anything, but someone has to make the first move and they've never given me reason not to think they're not the best of the competition. I enjoy Google products and Google as a company and while I realize the legalities and reality of the larger game, I'm content where I am. 

In the end it all comes down to the age old decision of choosing the devil you know over the devil you don't know. 

I'd rather be ahead of the game and give myself some semblance of an illusion of choice now than be caught in the middle of it later wondering what/if! So that's where I am and from where I stand I'm looking forward to seeing how things further continue to grow and evolve in the landscape we call technology.

Until then, keep your Fitbit up to date, Google account current and always… keep a backup.

As Always,

A Jonathan Black Observation
#AJBO #BasikBlack #BasikBucks #Google #health #fit #fitbit