Apple has released ResearchKit, its software framework for medical research which will allow researchers to procure data directly from iPhones. The company had earlier announced this software framework last month, along with the iWatch and redesigned MacBook.
ResearchKit will work with HealthKit, Apple’s software framework that provides developers the ability to let fitness and health apps communicate with each other. This software framework that was introduced in iOS 8, lets ResearchKit access and use data, such as weight, glucose levels, blood pressure, asthma inhaler use etc., from third party devices and apps.
According to Apple, the first research apps developed using ResearchKit study asthma, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, breast cancer and Parkinson’s disease. The company claims over 60,000 iPhone users have currently enrolled into the program. The initial customizable modules included in the platform are participant consent, surveys and active tasks.
Participant consent gets user consent for the program, surveys provide a platform for custom question and answers, while active tasks gather more targeted data by inviting participants to complete activities that generate data. Overall, ResearchKit apps can access data from iPhone sensors including accelerometer, gyroscope, microphone and GPS, to figure out data about a participants activity levels, memory, motor impairments etc.
Current active task modules available in ReasearchKit include monitoring motor activities like gait and tapping, fitness activities like walking, cognitive activities like spatial memory and voice related activities like phonation. As for limitations, the platform is unable to passively collect data in the background, secure communication between app and server, schedule surveys and provide automatic compliance with international research regulations.
Developers can also build new modules for ResearchKit as Apple has released the platform under GPL. This will also allow independent developers, universities and research institution to collaborate on the project. Apple mentions that medical researchers and developers from all over the world can use the platform to develop their own apps, although the platform has only rolled out in the US as of now.