Data and governance
ResearchKit: a powerful example of personal data sharing
March 10, 2015

On Monday, Apple presented the latest member of their product line-up, the iWatch. It’s by far not the first wrist-bound wearable as Apple’s competitors, Samsung, LG, Pebble, Motorola, all came much before [see here]. Nonetheless, much hope has been vested into the capacity of the device to jumpstart yet another category of personalised, ultra-portable digital devices besides their original take on the smartphone.

In many ways, it’s a continuation of a trend towards larger volumes of real-time, continuous, bi-directional flows of data coming from different aspects of our personal lives. While the release of the watch in itself was less noteworthy, ResearchKit demonstrated a different kind of innovation.

ResearchKit provides medical researchers with a framework for distributing health monitoring applications to a broad consumer base quickly. It offers the opportunity for participants to receive personalised feedback to participating in a user trial. Researchers can correlate the users’ test results with the health data stored on their devices — of course with their permission — across many thousands of participants.

Just hours after the announcement, Stanford ’s cardiovascular trial received 11,000 sign-ups [see here].

This example indicated how digital infrastructures and personal devices, inclusive of digital watches, can make a significant contribution to society, especially around a strong social cause.