Healthcare Technology Featured Article

September 05, 2014

Upcoming Mobile OS Receives App Development Guide Updates

Mobile integration with outside home and medical devices is becoming of increased interest to developers. A prominent mobile device and operating system manufacturer released its updated set of application guidelines this week for developers seeking to provide enhanced interaction between mobile devices and products that make up the Internet of Things.

Apple has yet to release iOS 8 to the public, but it is placing emphasis on development of new applications for its upcoming flagship operating system. According to 9to5Mac, Apple will release, at the company's Sept. 9 media event, a golden master seed of its OS to developers, and they will now be constrained by Apple's recently-updated application guidelines that apply to HomeKit, HealthKit, TestFlight, and Extensions.

In addition to the company's sentiment that "if your App doesn't do something useful, unique or provide some form of lasting entertainment, or if your app is plain creepy, it may not be accepted," Apple is gearing up for the enhanced integration iOS 8 will make possible for developers to allow apps to interact with outside devices.

HomeKit allows developers to create apps which provide users with the ability to communicate with and control devices in users' homes. TestFlight will allow developers to invite users to beta test their apps before a stable release. Those two new services now come with guidelines that are fairly straightforward. Developers may not use HomeKit to complete some sort of data mining or take advantage of users in similar ways; they may not use TestFlight as a method for exchanging compensation of any kind. Among other basic constraints, these sorts of restrictions that protect developers and users may be expected.

Apple sinks its teeth in, though, when it comes to Extensions and HealthKit. For the first time, developers will be able to provide users with enhanced functionality of their very smartphones, for instance, such as in providing a custom keyboard within an app that replaces the stock iOS keyboard. Beyond the fact that they must be functional, extensions must not include advertisements, and keyboards specifically "must provide a method for progressing to the next keyboard," remain functional without network access, comply with Apple's Number and Decimal keyboard types, must have a privacy policy of their very own, and may only collect data about user activity to improve their own functioning as keyboards.

HealthKit allows developers to work with health information such as calories burned during a fitness routine or sleep acquired through one's night. For this, developers must not allow their apps to store users' data in iCloud, share user data with third party applications without user consent, or provide diagnosis or treatment advice without user consent. This should help keep sensitive user data safe from prying eyes that may seek to grab information from the cloud in transport from user device to the cloud, and it allows Apple to work around FDA guidelines for mobile health applications because users will always be required to give consent before an app releases or uses their information for analysis.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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