Apple roused the interest of fans and industry onlookers earlier this year when a government calendar revealed that several of its executives had taken a meeting with the Food and Drug Administration to discuss "mobile health," and now thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, more details are available on what they met about. According to Apple Toolbox, which made the FOIA request, the discussion revolved around how medical apps and hardware are being regulated. Apple likes the FDA's current guidance on mobile medical apps — which was released last year and leaves some wiggle room on quality — but it seems to be particularly concerned with what exactly triggers regulation.
"There may be a moral obligation to do more."
Apple intends to work closely with the FDA during the development of future products, giving the agency advanced notice so that regulatory hurdles don't disrupt its business plans. The FDA says that it won't necessarily regulate a new product purely because it has a certain sensor present — say, a glucose meter — and that instead it would regulate the software that puts that sensor to use. That suggests that Apple would likely run any medical apps that it's making by the FDA, and potentially, it could even be doing this for iOS 8's Health and HealthKit. It's not clear what that'll mean for the App Store though, as it may come to fill with medical apps should future Apple devices contain sensors for them. It's likely that it'll still be up to individual developers to comply with regulations, rather than for Apple to enforce them.
Reports over the last year have said that Apple is planning on launching a smartwatch, and that the watch will likely include a number of health-monitoring sensors, such as one that could measure a wearer's heart rate. Apple's current products don't have much in the way of medical sensors, but they do include a built-in motion tracker, which is a basic start. Apparently though, Apple thinks that there's more to be done, and it apparently even believes that there "may be a moral obligation to do more." The FOIA response doesn't hint at what Apple plans on doing, but we'll certainly begin to see more of it with iOS 8 — and potentially even more with new hardware later this year.