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Apple rolls ResearchKit tools out to developers

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Research kit

The forward-thinking Apple ResearchKit framework is now available to all academics, scientists and doctors wishing to enlist iPhone users to assist with medical research.

From today the tool, which was announced at the Spring Forward event in March, can be built into third-party applications, enabling iPhone users to participate in studies by making data available to those conducting research.

Apple says over 60,000 iPhone users have already signed up for studies that arrived alongside ResearchKit last month.

Within the first few weeks of ResearchKit apps making the App Store, those participants have aided research into asthma, Parkinson’s disease, breast cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

One Stanford University cardiovascular study received 11,000 sign ups within the first 24 hours, with those running the research claiming it would have taken two years to receive that level of feedback previously.

The ResearchKit apps work by communicating with the Apple Health app, which uses the iPhone’s motion and GPS sensors to glean information about the owner's movement habits. Health also pulls in information from third party fitness and dietary apps and also from third-party trackers with heart rate sensors, like the new Apple Watch.

All of this information can potentially be shared with apps using ResearchKit, providing the iPhone users grant permission for the data to be used in the studies.

Currently ResearchKit apps are only available on the United States for iPhone 5 users and up. Apple says it’ll be rolling out in more countries in the future.

Related: ResearchKit: Can the iPhone really cure disease?

“We are delighted and encouraged by the response to ResearchKit from the medical and research community and the participants contributing to medical research. Studies that historically attracted a few hundred participants are now attracting participants in the tens of thousands,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s senior vice president of Operations.

“Medical researchers all over the world are actively exploring how ResearchKit can help them study even more diseases, and we believe the impact on global understanding of health and wellness will be profound.”

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