Tech giant Apple is making a bid to capture the healthcare data of iPhone users and Apple watch wearers with its new Research app.
The company says the app will help “advance science” by sharing the gathered data with ongoing medical studies.
Apple hopes that its massive user base will opt in to the app and agree to share their intimate data in medical studies that rely on their device’s electrocardiogram sensor, decibel meter and menstrual cycle-tracking functions.
It is hoped the results from the studies could be utilised to improve the design healthcare provision and enable Apple to build new products.
“Today marks an important moment as we embark on research initiatives that may offer incredible learnings in areas long sought after by the medical community,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer.
“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.”
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The three projects set to benefit from the data will explore women’s health, heart and movement, and hearing. For these studies Apple has partnered with Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the World Health Organisation and the University of Michigan.
Apple, like many other tech companies is seeking to disrupt the healthcare industry by leveraging its massive computing power, data analytics and sensors.
This app joins the company’s lineup of products and services that enable medical discovery, including iPhone, Apple Watch, ResearchKit and HealthKit.
Apple’s move coincides with the US Government’s announcement that it is probing Google as to whether or not it broke privacy laws on healthcare data in a cloud computing project with Ascension, following a report in the Wall Street Journal. Google claims it complied with regulations.
Apple hopes to distinguish itself from its competitors by putting a strong emphasis on its “privacy first” business model that is not dependent on advertising.
In a statement on its website, Apple said that the app would only share data with the chosen studies and only “when the user approves”. The company added that the app would come with a “clear enrolment flow with detailed consent that explains how data will be used and allows a user to control the type of data shared with each study”.