Apple’s ResearchKit portends more than just easier access to subjects of study for medical research
Here is how your smartphone could contribute to the greater good of the world. Apple has just launched ResearchKit—an open-source software that allows researchers to recruit subjects for studying diseases using individuals’ health data gleaned from their iPhones. Particpation is purely voluntary—users can even choose the exact manner in which their data is to be shared. Scientists at reputed research centres like the Stanford University School of Medicine and the Penn Medicine have already developed apps to be rolled out on the platform. While Apple’s HealthKit allows the iPhone user to make sense of her health particulars such as weight, blood pressure, asthma inhaler use, etc, ResearchKit lets them access the accelerometer, microphone, gyroscope, and GPS system on the subject’s phone to gather information on the individual’s gait, fitness, memory and speech, apart from giving them the HealthKit data.
The platform erases the need for a subject’s proximity to the centre of study. In doing that, it also gives scientists access to a widely-dispersed sample. This allows them to study the traits of the disease that could be specific to a region or a community or even a genetic-marker, thus widening the scope of the research. The open-source nature of the platform is also likely to facilitate greater collaboration between scientists and research institutions as also greater competition. Both ways, patients gain.