Apple opens ResearchKit to doctors and developers - and recruits IBM’s Watson

Artificially intelligent computer system will help researchers make the most of health data

Apple ResearchKit

Revealed last month alongside the new MacBooks and the Apple Watch launch details, ResearchKit was a surprising turn for Apple - a “help the world” initiative surrounded by lavish, beautiful consumer products. And now it’s opening up wide.

Today, Apple announced that the ResearchKit framework is now available for all developers and researchers to tap into, letting them design custom apps for testing health ailments via an iPhone, or letting them create specialized research modules.

Last month, ResearchKit launched in a limited trial with five initial apps developed with key partners, and Apple says that more than 60,000 iPhone users enrolled in trials during that span. With the open-source system now allowing a much wider array of apps to enter the fray, surely that number will balloon as more specific tests and trials are developed.

"Studies that historically attracted a few hundred participants are now attracting participants in the tens of thousands," notes Jeff Williams, Apple senior vice president of operations. "Medical researchers all over the world are actively exploring how ResearchKit can help them study even more diseases, and we believe the impact on global understanding of health and wellness will be profound."

IBM's Watson

And Apple will get a little more help, thanks to IBM’s Watson (shown), the artificially intelligent supercomputer used for everything from helping doctors make medical decisions to powering smart toys. IBM will remove identifiers from collected data via ResearchKit apps, and let researchers tap into the information to help them draw conclusions from the tests.

“Our deep understanding and history in the healthcare industry will help ensure that doctors and researchers can maximize the insights available through Apple’s HealthKit and ResearchKit data,” said John E. Kelly III, senior vice president of IBM’s research and solutions portfolio. “IBM’s secure data storage and analytics solutions will enable doctors and researchers to draw on real-time insights from consumer health and behavioral data at a scale never before possible.”

IBM also plans to develop HealthKit apps for iOS devices, which will allow businesses the ability to better interact with their employees on health and fitness needs.

[Sources: Apple, IBM via Yahoo]