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Apple highlights ‘ResearchKit’ through watch launch

Published on 10/03/15 at 09:48am
Apple’s senior VP of operations Jeff Williams presented ResearchKit at the watch
Apple’s senior VP of operations Jeff Williams presented ResearchKit at the watch launch

US tech giant Apple has finally launched its digital wearable device along with a ResearchKit platform that allows apps to be used in medical research.

At an Apple event yesterday it unveiled its Sport, Watch and Watch Edition offerings to go on sale in the UK from the end of April – priced £299, £479 and £8,000.

Whilst this watch only comes with 18 hours of battery life, it does boast many features such as monitoring heart rate, receiving calls, ordering taxis and even controlling smart home devices. 

Apple is also stepping up its foray into health innovation with Research Kit, a new iOS software platform that lets people volunteer to join medical research studies.

As an open-source health tool, Apple says ResearchKit lets people take tests like for example detecting vocal variations, walking in a line, or tapping in rhythm to test for Parkinson’s Disease.

Apple’s senior VP of operations Jeff Williams presented ResearchKit at the watch launch, and explained how the firm worked with 12 research institutions to build the app – including the University of Oxford and Stanford in California.

The platform is to offer apps for diabetes and heart disease, and the tech giant notes that the Massachusetts General Hospital's GlucoSuccess app for example – allows diabetics to participate in a research study that gives feedback on how their diet and exercise patterns impact daily glucose readings.

Other apps released involve studies centred on asthma and breast cancer, and are designed for volunteers to help people with chronic disease follow through with important health behaviours. 

The ResearchKit platform is said to work alongside Apple's HealthKit software, which allows iPhones to work with health and fitness apps that gather information on weight, blood pressure and glucose levels.

HealthKit was recently rolled out across a number of US hospitals to help doctors monitor patients with chronic conditions, which it does by gathering data from various apps on Apple devices: such as Motion 24/7 Sleeptracker and blood pressure monitor Health Mate – some can then be viewed by health professionals to monitor patients remotely.

Apple needs to be mindful of making exaggerated health claims of its devices however, following recent draft guidance from the FDA that stipulates how wearable tech for medical purposes could be regulated, and covers rules to define and distinguish consumer wearables from serious healthcare technology.

These latest updates from Apple will certainly raise public awareness of mobile health wearables which are slowly gaining traction – but consumers do want more from the market, such as affordable devices that offer greater engagement along with suitable privacy settings. 

Williams concluded: “With hundreds of millions of iPhones in use around the world, we saw an opportunity for Apple to have an even greater impact by empowering people to participate in and contribute to medical research." 

Brett Wells

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