Apple’s open source ResearchKit will change the world for the better

“It was a big evening for Apple fans, as the biggest company in the world announced the latest round of updates to its products and gave us more details on a whole new one,” James O’Malley writes for Tech Digest.

“The most transformative new Apple product came earlier in the evening, as Cooked announced ‘ResearchKit,’ which will sit alongside Apple’s Health app and let users participate in medical research,” O’Malley writes. “It seems that the next frontier for smartphones is helping cure disease.”

“It’ll do this using two things that a smartphone can do: It’ll share your health data with healthcare providers (such as your step count and heartbeat – which your iPhone and Apple Watch will do), but it will augment this with specialist apps developed by medical professionals,” O’Malley writes. “Sounds brilliant, right? But get this – on a macro scale, it could be even more amazing. Typically medical trials only usually involve a relatively small number of people, answering vague questions. The sort of tech we see in ResearchKit means that trials could have thousands (if not millions) of participants, all sharing much more detailed data – which will hopefully lead to better and faster cures…”

Read more in the full article here.

Related article:
Apple debuts ResearchKit, giving medical researchers the tools to revolutionize medical studies – March 9, 2015


  1. The only problem I see with ResearchKit would be the bias towards data primarily from those that can afford to get a device that supports it, which in this case will be singularly the iPhone. I suppose as long as the researchers are aware that the bias exists then they can craft their study to compensate for it somehow.

    1. An excellent point. Yet this bias already exists in every existing data collection method, for similar reasons: the framework is dependent on the characteristics of its participants. True random samples tend to cost money, which is why (for example) the U.S. census performs estimates for inaccessible neighbourhoods.

      Still, the sheer scale of Apple device ownership may render such statistical quibbles moot, once a first medical breakthrough is announced for a common disease. I can’t think of many that target only the rich and smug.

      1. True, however the poor are usually the ones that have less access to ‘good’ preventive medicine which seems to be the segment that does not intersect well with the profile for a iPhone user.

            1. Sorry, unduly influenced by Steve Jack and GOP letter to Iran this morning. Make no mistake I am equally disappointed by the performance of both major political parties. It’s all special interest cash or pandering to special interests who can deliver non-thinking votes.

            2. The problem goes straight to the laws that were passed to pay Congressional salaries, in violation of the Constitution. The Constitution allows for reimbursement for travel and lodging expenses while the citizens who were elected to represent other citizens were in Washington doing the necessary work of the country. It did not provide for a class of professional politicians who grant themselves a paycheck from the public coffers that puts them in the top 10% of all American earners. People will do just about anything to hold onto a job like that.

              Once again, follow the money.

    2. Developers will be able to build medical research apps that hook up to Android and Windows Phone devices too, meaning that data will be able to be collected from an even wider range of people. Including the bright Androids

      1. No, just that just being open source does not mean that other devices support it now or will in the near future. Visited Apple’s page on ResearchKit and it is rather sparse on details of what the framework really is.. Is it web-based? Is it source that can be compiled to the platform? etc..

        1. “Developers will be able to build medical research apps that hook up to Android and Windows Phone devices too” , meaning that data will be able to be collected from an even wider range of people. Including the bright androids…

          Now what about that isn’t clear to you d?

          1. Did you just quote yourself or did you quote that from elsewhere? I have yet to come across one article or page at Apple that even mentions Android or Windows in the same sentence or paragraph as ResearchKit.

            1. I think I’ve been pretty civil with my replies.. I have read the article above as well as the one it links to.. Please cite the paragraph in the article you took the quote from.

    3. It’s open source. Apple clearly intends for this to be used by Android. They even say on the ResearchKit page that it will be available for use by all platforms.

      This is intended to be available to the world, not just Apple’s platform.

      1. I think you are referring to the sentence “Now anyone can contribute to the next big medical breakthrough, regardless of their platform.” I’m not sure that means it will work on or with Android (or other OS for that matter), rather I think it means Apps can be developed on other platforms to create data formatted to be usable by ResearchKit to do its data-crunching work. The more I look into it, ResearchKit sounds more like something that runs on systems by IBM due to how it aggregates data to create reports and such. So mobile OSes will be used to gather the data and a larger system will be used to actually run ResearchKit.

        1. “YOU” aren’t sure… WTF are you, you lazy incompetent ignoramus?
          You aren’t even able to read let alone comprehend the written article or the widely published open source spec and implementation.

          Get lost dummy.

          1. If you are certain in your position you would ‘prove’ my ignorance by backing up your claim of a widely published open source spec and implementation with an URL or article explaining the details of ResearchKit that a developer can actually use. Constructive criticism, not destructive..

  2. Research kit is open source but with the cluster furballs that is android compatability, most will probably stick to IOS. Then there is the red eye cylon Google tagging and recording every bit of data passing thru their services.

  3. This item juxtaposes with another just-published thread on MDN (the thread about CIAs longstanding attempt to break into Apple devices). Maybe we shouldn’t be quite so keen to share. As soon as CIA/NSA crack the devices (hardly a challenge on the Android side), they’ll be cracked themselves. Your personal data will flow even more freely to insurance companies and advertisers.

    I know the fight that I’m fighting–the ‘none of your damned business’ fight–is a losing battle, but I’m still going to fight it.

  4. This feels like one of those “silent, misunderstood” things in Apple’s arsenal that will remain quiet for years to come, while quietly lining the pockets of Apple and its shareholders. I hope I’m right. 😀

  5. The lowest price Apple iOS device that a gyro, accelerometer, touch input, camera and wireless connectivity is the iPod touch. A $200 medical data collection device is unheard of, especially one that does all the front end data processing tasks. Many research projects would give anything to connect with participants for that little money. Did you see the cancer researcher that said they sent out 60,000 letters seeking participants and got less than 200 responses? Those 60,000 letters weren’t free.

    This is a game changer, IMHO. We just don’t know how it will work yet.

    1. The way ResearchKit is described from the articles I have read so far seem more like ResearchKit is something that has client-end and server-end parts. The client-end will manage the access to the data repository on the mobile/data-accumulation device and the server-end is that one that will aggregate and crunch the data collected from participating devices.

  6. I agree. By front-end I was thinking in terms of the data collection and entry tasks that happen when a researcher does an evaluation which is then entered into an analysis process, sometimes manually. The use of the client device, to tap buttons as part of an evaluation procedure, to be carried around while walking, perhaps to photograph a symptom or collect other imagery. My main point was that the research possibilities won’t be constrained by availability of higher end devices used by a more affluent subset of the population.

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