Apple turns the iPhone into medical research device with ResearchKit

Apple has launched a new iPhone feature called ResearchKit, which has been designed to make it easy for iPhone users to contribute their health data to medical research. Unusually for Apple, the platform is completely open source and uses the sensors in the phone to turn it into a connected research tool.

The company has been working with a number of universities and hospitals across the US and the UK to develop a series of bespoke apps that will make use of data collected through the apps. It will reduce the paperwork for institutions by automating surveys, as well as widening pools of participants beyond immediate localities.

Apple has fortunately pre-empted people’s inevitable privacy concerns and make sure that every data submission is opt-in. “There is nothing more sensitive than your medical data,” said Apple’s Jeff Williams, announcing ResearchKit on stage in San Francisco. “You decide what apps you participate in and what data is shared. Apple will not see your data,” he added.

ResearchKit will take a while to roll out in full, but five research apps will be available over the coming month. These will pull in data for research into Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, breast cancer and asthma.

Perhaps the most interesting of the five so far is the asthma research, which will be run across the US, but will also have a special programme in New York City. Researchers from Cornell Medical School will hand out connected measuring apparatus to sufferers across the metropolis and will swab surfaces throughout the city, correlating GPS-tagged data with swab results to see what might be exacerbating people’s conditions. The overall aim is ultimately to develop an understanding of exactly what the triggers are for asthma, and to develop more personalised treatment as a result.

Apple hopes that ResearchKit will create new opportunities for large-scale research. It wants the results acquired through the platform to be shared among the global research community in order to improve our understanding of diseases.

Source: Apple turns the iPhone into medical research device with ResearchKit, Katie Collins ( )


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