IBM taps Apple ResearchKit in bid to build world's biggest repository of sleep data

IBM ($IBM) has opened another front in its ever-expanding drive to capture a slice of the healthcare market. The latest component of the strategy sees IBM hook up once again with Apple ($AAPL), this time to use its Watch and ResearchKit platform to build the world's largest repository of sleep data.

Apple and IBM unveiled plans to pair ResearchKit and Watson Health Cloud nearly one year ago. But the SleepHealth Mobile Study marks the first time a ResearchKit project has run on Watson Health Cloud, making it a proving ground for the combination. IBM thinks putting Watson Health in charge of back-end data processes will enable researchers to combine results gathered in SleepHealth with information from other sources, while also equipping them to make use of the analytic capabilities on which the tech veteran's healthcare pitch is based.

The American Sleep Apnea Association (ASAA), which is running the project with IBM, is hoping such analyses can advance understanding of sleep disorders. "With ResearchKit and Watson Health Cloud, this new app will help us build the world's largest longitudinal study to collect data on both healthy and unhealthy sleepers that can be published as an open study and shared with other researchers," ASAA Chief Science Officer Carl Stepnowsky said in a statement. Stepnowsky is also the principal investigator on the study.

While IBM is handling the back-end technology, the participant-facing aspects of the study are being dealt with by Apple. As well as the ResearchKit framework, which made waves last year when early studies racked up massive enrollment numbers, the project is using Apple Watch. The device has an accelerometer, a gyroscope and a heart rate monitor, a combination that researchers think will allow them to see when a participant in the study is asleep and how they move about during the night. As well as gathering data, the researchers want to try to instill good sleep habits in participants.

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