Apple Watch SESource: Apple

What you need to know

  • Apple and Biogen have announced a joint study that will look for digital biomarkers related to various illnesses.
  • The study will use data collected by iPhones and Apple Watches.

Apple and research firm Biogen have announced a joint study that will use iPhone and Apple Watch data to try and identify digital biomarkers that could prove early indicators for illnesses like Alzheimer's and other issues relating to cognitive decline.

The theory is relatively simple. By studying how people engage with their iPhone and Apple Watch, Biogen hopes to be able to spot the early signs of cognitive decline, allowing potential treatment to be considered sooner. That could have a huge impact on a patient's quality of life as they grow older.

Apple COO Jeff Williams said that the company is looking forward to learning how iPhone and Apple Watch can help.

"Working in collaboration with Biogen, we hope this study can help the medical community better understand a person's cognitive performance by simply having them engage with their Apple Watch and iPhone," said Jeff Williams, Apple's chief operating officer. "We're looking forward to learning about the impact our technology can have in delivering better health outcomes through improved detection of declining cognitive health."

As you might expect, privacy is of the utmost importance with such a study and Biogen says that users will be able to stop taking part at any time. Data will also be stored on protected systems, too.

The virtual study allows adult users across the aging lifespan to join. The study has been designed with customer privacy, control and transparency in mind as well as data security. Participants, who can stop taking part in the study at any time, will complete a detailed consent form listing the collected data types and how each may be used and shared. Data will be stored in an encrypted manner and in systems with strong security controls designed to protect the data.

Biogen says that the new multi-year effort will begin "later in 2021."