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Author's profile photo Patrick Colucci

Big Data and Apple’s new ResearchKit

At Apple’s ‘Spring Forward’ event in San Fransisco, Apple announced ResearchKit, an open source software framework that makes it easy for researchers and developers to create apps around medical research. While nothing is more important than our heath, Apple hopes to ‘revolutionize medical studies’ and to ‘transform medicine forever’ by analyzing the large volumes of data that the sensors on our iPhone can record.

It’s well known that there has been a large amount of talk around big data over the last few years. It’s likely given the amount of data we create every day, every hour, or every minute. For every minute of every day, Google receives over 4, 000, 000 search queries. In addition to the 204, 000, 000 emails sent every minute. Along with the 72 hours of new video content YouTube users upload. These statistics represent the 2.4 billion people connected to the Internet everyday. In fact, the global Internet population grew 14.3% from 2011 – 2013. Many industries grasp the value of this data and have been successful at employing the significance from large-scale data analysis technology. This is data that is simply around us consistently and perpetually. For many years, our smartphones and mobile devices have been equipped with sensors and capabilities to track movement, take measurements, and record data. By analyzing these massive volumes of data in real time, we can gain an unprecedented amount of insight.

Big Data is the ocean of information we swim in every day – vast zetabytes of data flowing from our computers, mobile devices, and machine sensors. With the right solutions, organizations can dive into all data and gain valuable insights that were previously unimaginable. –SAP

While many industries have been able to analyze and act on big data insights, health care has started to play in the same game. Based in South Korea, Seoul National University Bundang Hospital invested in a clinical and business data warehouse system. The hospital has 1,400 hospital beds and over 6,000 patients who visit every day. Seoul National University Bundang Hospital not only improved patient care, but also aided doctors in retrieving key data in real-time for clinical research work using SAP HANA.

Let’s step back from industries and organizations and focus on the individual. To date, Apple has sold 700 million iPhones, the company revealed during its live event. Which means hundreds of millions of people around the world have an iPhone in their pocket. In other words, hundreds of millions of people are suited with powerful processors and advanced sensors that can track movement, take measurements, and record information, which Apple believes to be suitable for medical studies.

This big data initiative is expected to be the premise for many medical studies on asthma, breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and more. When the iPhone user has explicitly provided consent to allow the collection of sensitive health data from the Health app, information such as blood pressure, glucose levels and more can be utilized to gain valuable insights. Furthermore, ResearchKit can additionally call and access the iPhone’s accelerometer, microphone, gyroscope and GPS sensors in the iPhone. This is used to gain further insight into a patient’s step, motor impairment, fitness, speech and memory.

ResearchKit is already being used today by some of the world’s leading medical institutions. One of today’s examples include ‘Asthma Health’, developed by Mount Sinai, Weill Cornell Medical College, and LifeMap. ‘Asthma Health’ is used to gain a deeper insight into the main triggers of Asthma. Feel free to view and download more examples from the App Store.

It will be interesting to see what developers and researchers build and discover with ResearchKit. Apple has stated that ResearchKit will be released  to developers in April 2015. With this new big data initiative, anyone can contribute to the next big medical breakthrough.

Also See

ACI – Data Infographic

Apple – ResearchKit

SAP – Big Data Solutions

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