In March 2015, Apple promised to change the way medical research could be done. It launched ResearchKit, which could turn millions of iPhones around the world into a “powerful tool for medical research,” the company said at the time.
Since then, ResearchKit — software that gives would-be app developers a library of coding to create health apps on the iPhone and Apple Watch — has spawned a number of studies: One team has used it to create an app to track Parkinson’s symptoms; another is trying out a screening protocol for autism. A third helps people inventory the moles on their skin and evaluate how they have changed over time.
Many of these apps have been downloaded tens of thousands of times, benefitting from Apple’s own huge scale. “Virtually overnight, the research studies that we launched became some of the largest in history,” said Jeff Williams, then Apple’s senior vice president of operations, at an Apple event in March 2016.