Apple today released its new open-source software tool ResearchKit in an effort to give health scientists a new way to gather information through sensors in patients' iPhones.
Several top research institutions have already developed applications to work on the ResearchKit platform, including those pursuing clinical studies on asthma, breast cancer, heart disease, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.
They include Stanford University School of Medicine and Weill Cornell Medical College in the United States.
For now, ResearchKit apps are available only in the United States App Store. Availability for other countries will come in the near future, an Apple spokesperson told iTnews.
Apple has designed ResearchKit to allow users to decide if they want to participate in a study as well as how their data is to be shared with researchers.
"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," Jeff Williams, Apple’s senior vice president of operations, said in a statement.
The ResearchKit platform is designed to work hand in hand with Apple's HealthKit software, which allows iPhones to work with health and fitness apps that gather information on weight, blood pressure, glucose levels and asthma inhaler use.
ResearchKit also gives researchers access to accelerometer, microphone, gyroscope and GPS sensors in the iPhone to gain insight into a patient's gait, motor impairment, fitness, speech and memory.
The software is also designed to help researchers build more diverse study populations, which traditionally have been limited by physical proximity to large academic medical centres.
Apple's new health research platform requires iPhone 5 or newer, or the latest generation iPod Touch.