Take a look at any tech-centric website today, and you’ll see that Apple’s recent Watch and MacBook announcements have generated a huge amount of buzz. But I think that you can make the case that Research Kit was by far the most important thing to come out of Monday’s “Spring Forward” Apple Event.
I’ve been digesting it for a few days, because I wanted to articulate what is so interesting about ResearchKit. The fundamental components of ResearchKit are basically an extension of Apple’s HealthKit framework: Like HealthKit, ResearchKit allow developers to use the huge sensor array you’re always carrying in you pocket in order to track bits of health-related data. Except with ResearchKit, those sensors can now be used for specialized apps from research hospitals and universities. In fact, you can already try apps that help researchers learn more about various conditions like Diabetes and Parkinson’s.
The availability of apps these apps in the wider App Store allows researchers to recruit test subjects from around the world. None of the data collected gets sent to Apple, thus safeguarding privacy. It promises to help automate a lot the paperwork that may prevent many people from joining a research study. This seems like a really cool API for developers at these medical institutions.
In addition, ResearchKit could be a really important step toward bringing science to personal devices like the iPhone. The iPad has already made some very big inroads into medicine, namely hospitals, and the iPhone and other personal monitoring devices have done a lot to help us learn more about ourselves. Allowing us do something meaningful with that data, and giving doctors a way to gain access to it without running into privacy or legal issues, is going to be transformative.
There’s a lot of handwringing about the ports on the new MacBook, and the future of the Apple Watch. To be honest, even if both of those could fail, Monday’s event could be considered a success. ResearchKit is a lot more revolutionary than any one product could be. There’s a lot of ifs, and hopefully Apple continues its commitment, but I’m optimistic that ResearchKit’s impact will ultimately be greater than that of any laptop or any watch.