Microsoft Unveils Mobile Health Platform, App and Smart Band

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Targeting the exploding health and wellness market, Microsoft in one fell swoop has launched a new cloud-based platform, mobile app, and wearable fitness tracking wrist band.

Called Microsoft Health, the platform allows users to store health and fitness data collected through a Microsoft Health app, which is available on Android, iOS and Windows Phone, as well as data generated from Microsoft Band—a smart band designed for Microsoft Health. The platform and app are also compatible with UP by Jawbone, MapMyFitness, MyFitnessPal and RunKeeper apps.

“We see an opportunity to bring these devices and services together to allow you to combine the information they collect and use the power of the cloud to turn that data into something more valuable,” according to a blog by Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President Todd Holmdahl. “Microsoft Health will unite data from different health and fitness devices and services in a single, secure location. Once stored in Microsoft Health, you can combine the data you generate from different devices and services—steps, calories, heart rate and more—to receive powerful insights from our Intelligence Engine.”

In addition, Holmdahl reveals that Microsoft Health will soon have the ability—with user permission—to connect the data to Microsoft’s HealthVault web-based repository of personal health information to share it with a person’s healthcare provider. “Over time, you will have the choice to combine your fitness data with calendar and email information from Office as well as location-based information and more,” he adds.

The data feed to Microsoft Health from the new wrist-worn Microsoft Band derives from 10 smart sensor modules that provide 24-hour heart rate monitoring, calorie burn measurement, and advanced sleep quality tracking as well as “guided workouts” courtesy of Gold’s Gym, Shape, Men’s Fitness and Muscle & Fitness. The smart bands also keep users connected with incoming calls, emails, texts and social updates as well as access to Cortana, Microsoft’s intelligent personal assistant. Microsoft Band is currently available in the U.S. in limited quantities online at and at Microsoft Stores for $199.

Microsoft's latest product launch into the health-fitness tracking market comes at a time when tech giants Apple and Google are similarly looking to take advantage of strong consumer demand in this area. Competition in the mobile health marketplace is starting to heat up. Last month, Apple unveiled its Apple Watch and HealthKit app with great fanfare. But how these new technologies will fit into or transform the healthcare landscape remains to be seen.

Nonetheless, when it comes to price, Microsoft seems to have Apple beat. The Microsoft Band costs $199 while the Apple Watch—slated for release early next year—starts at $349 but requires an iPhone for GPS tracking. Microsoft’s smart band has built-in GPS, which is a definite advantage for runners and others who do not need to carry their smartphones with them, as is the case with Apple Watch.

In addition to GPS, Apple Watch is also dependent on the iPhone for other capabilities such as an accelerometer, a built-in heart rate sensor, and Wi-Fi. Niharika Midha, medical device analyst at GlobalData, argues that Apple Watch’s iPhone dependence in comparison to other wearable fitness device vendors, including Samsung and Fitbit, is a major drawback. For its part, Fitbit recently announced its Surge watch with GPS, available in early 2015, that will cost $250.

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