Apple releases its watch and makes a surprise move into the area of medical research

Apple releases its watch and makes a surprise move into the area of medical research

As several of us have posted previously, there's a technological trend towards constant monitoring of your health parameters and the collection of that data for research purposes. I expect that Apple's long presaged release of their smart watch will only accelerate that trend. From Technophrenia; On the interface between technology, people and society, David Glance, Director of UWA Centre for Software Practice at University of Western Australia writes:

"In a move that took everyone by surprise however, Apple also released a new software platform called ResearchKit... The (ResearchKit) platform enables medical researchers to create applications that specifically support the enrolment of subjects in medical trials and the continuous collection of data for research projects."

And from "The Australian" newspaper:

"iOS apps already help millions of customers track and improve their health. With hundreds of millions of iPhones in use around the world, we saw an opportunity for Apple to have an even greater impact by empowering people to participate in and contribute to medical research,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s senior vice president of Operations.

“ResearchKit gives the scientific community access to a diverse, global population and more ways to collect data than ever before.”

I haven't worn a watch for about 10 years. I'm not even sure I'd want one if it was provided to me as a condition of joining a clinical trial, though perhaps if it came with an iPhone...


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  • And ResearchKit will be open source. :-)

  • Advertising has been a big battleground with the likes of personalised avertising injected into your web browsing (who have bought something like a fridge online only to subsequently see lots of fridge adverts) and advertising on screens in shops subtly change as it spots your phone arriving?

    The next big battleground collecting medical information. Possibly not for advertising but to profile the population for anonymous market research.

    Off to Liverpool now, looking forward to a great and informative day


  • Apple was very clear... data from Research Kit projects will be encrypted and not readable by Apple or anyone else... It will be up to the user which data they wish to share and with whom.

    But should these Apps require certification?

    Currently the FDA is split on mobile 'Health Apps' and whether they need some form of certification process...

    In general, the FDA will not regulate apps that don’t pose a real health threat to the user if they malfunction or simply help users document or track basic health metrics, or self-manage a disease or condition without providing specific treatment advice.

    However, plugging a sensor into a mobile device to track heart rhythms, for example, or test a blood sample would become a medical device and therefore would require certification.

    Anyone interested can read the current guidance for health apps from the FDA...

    Focus on Lymphoma is an example perhaps, of data tracking that is currently self contained on a mobile device and not shared... but imagine a project in CLL, that could receive this data for research... real data from a broad CLL community.

    Focus on Lymphoma App...

  • This is a very interesting article and well worth reading by anyone wondering about what's likely to happen with wearable technology and health. Andrew McStay, Senior Lecturer in Media Culture at Bangor University, Wales, also provides a UK perspective:

    The market (for wearable devices) is predicted to grow from 9.7M units in 2013 to 135M in 2018, according to CCS Insight, while a report from UK retailer John Lewis also records steady growth in wearables for health and well-being: sales were up 395% from 2013. This is notable because John Lewis is not aimed at the tech-savvy, and therefore presents a reasonable indicator of mass-market take-up of wearables (my emphasis).



    The promise wearable technology offers is information: about consumers' and patients’ behaviour, their health, and whether they stick to prescribed treatments.



    Wearables are only part of the health story, as advocates of digital health care foresee how the doctor-patient approach would be radically altered by means of wearable monitors and sensors in the home. Technology behemoths such as Apple and Google alongside many startups would clearly be interested in the possibilities offered by reorganising health provision along these lines.



    We have yet to see Apple’s privacy policy for the watch. While I’m sure it will state that no personally identifiable information will be disclosed to third-parties, what remains to be seen is what can be drawn from aggregated biometric and emotional data, and where that data ends up. This is a key revenue stream for other empathic media and wearable companies. Will Apple be doing the same?"

    Yes, Apple making the ResearchKit Open Source is sure to encourage some clever people to come up with some very desirable 'Apps'.


  • More on Apple's ResearchKit and how it "may be Apple's most impactful new product":

    "With ResearchKit, researchers can create specialized apps that use various parts of the iPhone -- including the screen, accelerometer, microphone, and gyroscope -- to collect data from anyone who downloads an app.


    Worth noting is the fact that Apple says it will never see any patient data.

    Hopefully, ResearchKit, which Apple has promised to make open source and available to any researchers on any platform, will actually help doctors and medical researchers perform their jobs more effectively. It also shows how new technologies can be used for so much more than emojis and Angry Birds."


  • It will be an interesting social/medical experiment .... 11,000 people signed up for the Cardio study in 24 hours... but there are numerous critics. GIGO, garbage in, garbage out...

  • Un-doing awareness: Do smart watches make dumb humans? Elizabeth Dori Tunstall, Associate Professor, Design Anthropology at Swinburne University of Technology, Victoria, Australia, shares her concern with how digital monitoring leads to human dependency on sensing technologies that tell us things that our bodies, including the mind, are already well designed to monitor:

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