Google just announced that it is shutting down its electronic health records product Google Health and its energy metering product PowerMeter. Both of these were products that Google positioned as potential game changers in their industries but that never really caught on with users and partners. Indeed, one of the things that the two products have in common is that they relied on bringing enough industry partners on board to ensure the availability of third-party data. Outside of a few major partnerships (including a cooperating with CVS), that sadly never happened.
I already wondered if Google had given up on PowerMeter in May, when the company announced that it was shutting down development of the product’s API. Now it’s clear that this is indeed the case.
While Google’s announcement notes that “the installation of smart meters and other home energy devices is picking up steam, and states like California and Texas are moving forward to finalize policies and programs in this area,” none of these systems were going to interface with PowerMeter anytime soon. The official reason for shutting the system down is that the company’s “efforts have not scaled as quickly as [Google] would like.”
Oddly, Google’s announcement makes no mention of Android@Home, a new platform for home automation that Google announced at its annual developer conference earlier this year. While it’s not a direct replacement for PowerMeter, it could provide users with an in-home alternative to getting power data from their local utility.
As for Google Health, Google is in good company, as none of the competing online health record services (including Microsoft’s HealthVault) have really caught on yet. It’s odd to see Google shut this service down, though (data will be available in various forms for download until January 2013).
Maybe Google just lost patience – or it simply didn’t see any commercial future for the service, which never attracted many users and partners. Google says its inability to scale the products up to a level that made them worthwhile for the company is the reason for shutting them down. One could argue, though, that Google developed quite a few services that never quite caught on and continues to operate them even though they only have a small number of users (remember Knol?).
Health and PowerMeter both had the opportunity to bring much-needed change to their respective industries. It’s sad to see that Google has decided to give up on these efforts.