Apple has announced a new software development programme to work alongside its Health app and Healthkit, at a live event in Cupertino, California.

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Following an introduction by CEO Tim Cook in which he talked of 900 apps helpig to manage and track health and fitness on the iPhone, Apple’s Senior Vice President Operations Jeff Williams presented the framework, called ResearchKit.

Williams explained that Apple had been working with major universities like Oxford, and Stanford medicine, as well as hospitals like Mount Sinai, to develop the framework.

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ResearchKit will be available for developers to create apps, with the overall goal of helping to contribute to medial research.

Williams explains that the sheer number of iPhone users and their data can help with a number of conditions.

To start with, five apps have been developed. They will be for Parkinson’s Disease, with an app called mPower, which includes tests such as tapping interval tests, mic-related features and more. There will also be apps on Diabetes, cardio vascular disease, asthma, and breast cancer.

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Importantly, Apple also addressed privacy. “Users decide what to participate in, how to share it” said Williams. “Apple won’t see the data.”

This last point caused an eruption of cheer from the watching audience.

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Williams explained that ResearchKit will be developed over time, and that it will be open source. It will be released in April. The first five apps however, are available today.