On March 9 Apple announced a couple of things at its “Spring forward” event, most of which got the spotlight like the new Macbook and the Apple Watch, but perhaps the most important thing Apple announced was ResearchKit. In fact, it was one of the surprise announcements and is one of the things that really got me excited – especially that they made it opensource. Why ResearchKit is the the most important thing Apple announced this week?
1. ResearchKit will make mainstream technology a very accessible tool
With the popularity of the Apple devices, researchers or developers using ResearchKit can develop specialized apps to collect, analyze and interpret data from anyone who downloads that app. Until now, researchers had to develop the tests and bring their subjects into their experiment to analyze and collect information, but ResearchKit allows them to develop apps and make it available to a massive number of subjects – and they all have what they need for it: their iOS device.
2. ResearchKit has potential to improve lives
Gathering data is not the same as understanding it but potentionally by looking at the collected data, interpreting and understanding it, the medical breakthroughs will accelerate and this will translate into more discoveries and possible cures developments. It will enable doctors and medical researchers understand diseases, how different individual experience them and identifiy patterns and habits. Looking into the future, technologies like this will help improve our lives. And hopefully more companies will come up with such technologies.
3. Although there is no guaruntee ResearchKit will be a success, it is a step forward for medicine
Yes, I realise there might be flaws and that some data might not be consistent or relevant for multiple reasons. But it is a step forward. And these kind of initiatives, especially coming from such a big company excite me and should excite others, more than the launch of a new piece of device. There is close to no reason for why someone wouldn’t try to contribute to these researches – I am a person concerned about my privacy, especially in the digital world – but I trust Apple, more than I trust any other company and not because they say they value privacy but because they actually do it. But even if say my data will be used – they are used by institutions that will analyze it for a greater good, not to try to sell me stuff. Enabling people to help by doing really simple stuff is a step forward to medicine. And they made it open source for everyone to contribute!
4. Big institutions are behind it and willing to use it
And yes, I am talking about Stanford and Oxford University, Penn Medicine, UCLA or American Heart Foundation – and many more who are and have been undergoing tremendous amount of valuable research in the past and which believe this tool will help them shape a more accurate image of the population and how it can prevent, correctly diagnose and cure or at least improve the lives of those with diseaseas such as breast cancer, Parkinson, asthma or cardiovascular problems.
— Stanford University (@Stanford) March 11, 2015
After six hours we have 7406 people enrolled in our Parkinson’s study. Largest one ever before was 1700 people. #ResearchKit
— John Wilbanks (@wilbanks) March 10, 2015
We should constantly look into what we can do with the technology to enrich and improve our lives! I see this announcement as “Make research contribution cool and accessible to the masses”, which I don’t think is a bad thing at all and should deserve a lot more attention than the $10,000 Apple Watch Edition.