Apple exercises a new HealthKit muscle

The new data hub is meant to collect all the information gathered by wearables in one place.

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Apple rolled out HealthKit, software that will let consumers track health-related data, on Monday at its Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco.

HealthKit, available with Apple's newly unveiled iOS 8, is meant to be a hub for health data, and includes a corresponding app named Health, which can be used with third-party fitness devices. Check out CNET's first take on the app.

Craig Federighi, senior vice president of software engineering, said many medical institutions have already signed on as partners, including the Mayo Clinic, which has an integration with HealthKit that goes to work when patients do things like checking their blood pressure rating. The software will automatically check to see if the rating is within the set parameters, and notify the hospital if it is not so doctors can check in with their patients more quickly.

"We think this is going to be really important for health care," Federighi said.

It's not surprising the software will be able to connect with third-party devices, given that Apple has no wearable device yet despite a slew of rumors around the fabled device. While HealthKit is no iWatch, it also could provide hints on what a future Apple wearable could be like.

Health has become a big focus area for companies across the tech sector. Several have introduced health-centric gadgets, such as the Samsung Gear Fit and Jawbone Up24 , and countless others are working on smart glucose meters and similar products. Other companies see an opportunity to mine patient data or collect readings on individuals to predict when they'll get sick and tailor treatment.

Apple archrival Samsung, for one, has made a big push in health with its mobile devices. Its Galaxy S5 smartphone and Gear Fit incorporate heart-rate monitors and health-focused apps, and last week, it also unveiled efforts to develop new sensors and a cloud-based platform for collecting health data.

Apple so far has been relatively quiet in the health and fitness market. It has partnered with Nike on a fitness app but hasn't released a wearable or health-centric apps of its own. A new motion co-processor introduced in the iPhone 5S last fall, called the M7, works alongside the main chip in the device to continuously measure motion data without draining battery life. Apple said last fall that M7 would enable a new generation of health and fitness apps, but so far, only a handful of apps -- including Nike+ Move, DayOne, Runtastic, and Strava Run -- take advantage of the chip.

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