Not long ago I heralded the announcement of the partnership between Apple and IBM by predicting that “with IBM’s help, Apple becomes a legitimate business play, and IBM gets to tie up ‘the last mile’ in its enterprise strategy.”
Whilst highlighting that Apple needed the enterprise market and IBM needed a means to keep that market connected to its offerings (enterprise software, cloud services, data and analytics), I also pointing out it would be naïve to assume that was all that was being hatched by these two giants.
But that was before the release of the Apple Watch and the announcement of Apple’s ResearchKit that turns the iPhone, and now the Apple Watch, into powerful tools for medical research. This highlight that the driving force behind the Apple/IBM partnership was really data analytics.
It’s a far cry from the time a young Steve Jobs took direct aim at IBM in a speech in San Francisco in the fall of 1983, deriding IBM as arrogant and shortsighted and predicting that it would soon be humbled. Jobs proved to be right, but he definitely did not foresee a time when both companies would join forces and potentially change all our lives so dramatically.
More recently, IBM has been leveraging its prowess with supercomputers and artificial intelligence with a new initiative, Watson Health Cloud, that also includes Apple. The official website claims it “will bring together clinical, research and social data from a diverse range of health sources, creating a secure, cloud-based data sharing hub, powered by the most advanced cognitive and analytic technologies.”
One has to assume that IBM had a clue to what Apple was up to - first with the release of its HealthKit app on the iPhone and then the release of the Apple Watch with so many sensors monitoring and collecting data on the wearer 24x7. ResearchKit, mentioned above, turns iPhone into a powerful tool for medical research. When granted permission by the participant, ResearchKit apps can access data from advanced iPhone sensors like the accelerometer, gyroscope, microphone and GPS to gain insight into a participant’s activity levels, motor impairments, memory and more. Of course, ResearchKit works seamlessly with HealthKit.
As Matt Margolis wrote on SeekingAlpha, “IBM will drive data analytics collected from the Apple Watch to enable doctors, researchers and insurers to cut costs and improve patient care decisions. Patient data is the Holy Grail behind human behavior, specifically how the human body heals and reacts to external factors, the environment and stimulants. Millions of terabytes of analyzed patient data will lead to advancements in disease research, disease treatment and clinical trials.”
In a January 2015 study by Research Now, 56.6 percent of US adult mobile health app users shared their tracked health information with their doctors, and an additional 14.2 percent provided this data to other healthcare professionals. In research conducted in December 2014 by Harris Poll for A&D Medical, around one-fifth of US internet users said they would use connected health devices to allow their doctor to be ‘in the know’ to prevent surprises during visits, and a similar percentage said they would allow their doctor to monitor their health 24/7 if necessary.
The is no doubt that with the success of the Apple devices, fitted out with those sensors and apps, the numbers of participants in health monitoring will increase dramatically and all that data will be a very valuable part of any research program.
But it won’t stop there, surely? How long before we will be offered personalized health programs that allow our individual data to be processed for assessment by doctors, or sophisticated computers and provide as with guidance on everything from diet and exercise to remedies for illness, advice on personal hygiene, when to visit a doctor, etc.
Google was searching on the passive internet data but the search is now going to be on your body, ay least in term of health parameters. The power and wealth that Google has amassed from our searching and surfing habits that helps advertisers, could now be in the hands of the IBM/Apple alliance when it comes to health.
So how long will it be before they go past the ‘humanitarian health’ reasoning to an all out cornering of the very lucrative healthcare market?