Health Researchers Aim to Leverage iPhones’ Biometrics, Ubiquity

Health Researchers Aim to Leverage iPhones' Biometrics, UbiquityResearchers at the USC Center for Body Computing have developed a new mobile app that will allow users to embed biometric heart rate data into their shared photos. Called Biogram, the app is intended to help the researchers to study how the public sharing of biometric data could affect social relationships, in addition to helping researchers to collect additional biometric data collected by the users’ mobile devices.

It’s a fair bet that most of the mobile devices in question will be iPhones, as this is a ResearchKit-affiliated study. ResearchKit is Apple’s platform for collaboration with academic and medical researchers seeking to leverage the capabilities of the company’s mobile devices; Apple just announced three other major studies with Duke University, Johns Hopkins, and Oregon Health & Science University. The Biogram study appears to be well-suited to take advantage of both the biometric data iPhones collect via the HealthKit app, and the ubiquity of the devices and compatible photo-sharing apps; in a press release, the USC Center for Body Computing asserted that the study could potentially “capture data on millions of Biogram users, exponentially increasing the number of medical research study participants.

That would help to realize a vision that the study’s lead researcher, Dr. Leslie Saxon, laid out earlier this year at the SXSW festival, where she noted that the widespread use of mobile devices featuring sophisticated biometric sensors could offer enormous benefits to health researchers working on a large scale. Now, speaking on the new study, Dr. Saxon notes that “one of the advantages of developing Biogram using ResearchKit is that we can now not only scale our medical studies to capture possibly millions of participants and give us groundbreaking observations but because ResearchKit is an app platform where we can engage users socially and emotionally with their health and study it.”

Biogram was also developed in collaboration with Medable, whose cloud platform is being used to ensure that the app is HIPAA-compliant.