The new Research app is rolling out to Apple Watch and iPhone users, promising to revolutionize large-scale health studies.
Announced back in September, the new Research app allows iOS users to opt into health studies, which leverage the scale and ubiquity of Apple’s devices and the sensors.
Of course, the Apple Watch is a key device for this initiative, with its ability to record movement, heart rate and other data points.
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There are three opt-in studies to begin, covering female health, heart health and hearing. The latter takes advantage of the new Noise app that rolled out with watchOS 6 and iOS 13.
“Participants on the Research app have the opportunity to make a tremendous impact that could lead to new discoveries and help millions lead healthier lives,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer.
The hearing study is a partnership with the University of Michigan and the World Health Organization. Noise data is collected via Apple Watch and iPhone and augmented with hearing tests and surveys. The study also aims to look at the behaviour of users when confronted with loud noises.
The female health study is being carried out in conjunction with Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to try and further understanding of menstrual cycles.
Finally, there’s a fitness and heart health study with American Heart Association and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. This will leverage the data from Apple Watch sensors during workouts and general 24/7 heart rate tracking to try and look for early warning signs of atrial fibrillation and heart disease.
The app is rolling out now to users in the US. It’s all opt-in, so, if you don’t do anything, your data won’t be beamed off to far-flung universities.
Apple has promised that data won’t be sold, committing to full transparency over data collection and how it’s used – and you can opt back out at any time.
It’s clearly an ambitious and unique program, but it could do serious good. With Apple Watch dominating the smartwatch sales market - it's now estimated to have nearly 50% of the market share - there’s potential to undertake studies at a scale never seen before. And that’s truly exciting.
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