Apple's ResearchKit Makes iPhone Users Test Subjects

Published: Mar 11, 2015

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March 10, 2015
By Krystle Vermes, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

Apple held its “Spring Forward” event on March 9, and although the release date of its smartwatch was the highly anticipated announcement, the company also revealed a feature that could change the healthcare industry – ResearchKit. It is open source software framework that allows researchers and developers to create apps for medical studies and medicine.

“Hundreds of millions of people around the world have an iPhone in their pocket,” Apple wrote on the ResearchKit home page. “The sheer number of them being used across the globe opens up new possibilities for researchers. With ResearchKit, researchers can easily create apps that take advantage of iPhone features to gather new types of data on a scale never available before.”

Apple is now working with medical institutions including the American Heart Association, Massachusetts General Hospital, and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute to put ResearchKit in motion. However, the company is hoping to strike a chord with its general population of iPhone users, who can use ResearchKit to play a role in shaping future medicine.

For now, ResearchKit is slated to collect biometric data, which will be used in areas such as asthma, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes and breast cancer, according to Gizmodo. It will also incorporate fitness data and motor activities.

The Appeal to Developers
ResearchKit will be linked to Apple’s HealthKit, which was unveiled with iOS 8. HealthKit allows fitness and health apps to work together on the iPhone, and 900 apps have already been created using the technology. Now, ResearchKit will be able to tap into all of the data that is generated by HealthKit, and it will become accessible to researchers.

Additionally, the fact that ResearchKit is an open source platform may spike the interest of more developers. This set-up allows users to easily collaborate, as well as share their apps and research methods. Apple notes that ResearchKit will be available to developers beginning in April.

“This new framework takes advantage of the sensors and capabilities of iPhone to track movement, take measurements, and record data,” Apple wrote in its technical overview of ResearchKit. “Participants can perform activities and generate data wherever they are, providing more objective information. Customizable modules make it easy to create a study, while developers are encouraged to build new modules and share them with the community.”



BioSpace Temperature Poll
Vertex Pharmaceuticals made news last week when it terminated leases on three properties in Cambridge, Mass, that freed up 313,000 square feet of space in the Genetown area. The company has spent a significant part of 2014 consolidating its operations on the South Boston waterfront, leasing 291,000 square feet of office space at West Kendall Street in Cambridge’s Kendall Square. So we wanted to ask the BioSpace community: Is Boston going to be getting more biotech leases anytime soon, or fewer tenants?

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