Robert Wood Johnson Partners With Cornell To Develop An Android-based ResearchKit Framework


The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is funding a large-scale development initiative that will help researchers port their iOS ResearchKit apps into the Android marketplace with minimal effort or duplicate coding. The project is being funded by RWJF, while development of the new framework is being handled by the Small Data Lab at Cornell University, as well as Open mHealth and Touchlab.

The overarching goal of the initiative is to “help developers and researchers with existing apps on iOS more easily adapt those apps for Android.” Apple launched ResearchKit in March 2015, and mainstream adoption has come quickly. Since its launch, researchers from prestigious academic facilities have flocked to ResearchKit, including Johns Hopkins University, Massachusetts General Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Duke University, Yale University, Stanford Medicine, the University of Oxford, and Cornell University. The framework is currently being used to collect data on autism, epilepsy, melanoma, pregnancy complications, asthma, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, breast cancer, and cardiovascular disease.

Through ResearchKit, Apple has validated that there is genuine demand from the research community for a secure platform to deploy apps. Unfortunately, Google has been slow to update its own Android operating system to offer a similar solution, leaving its smartphone users on the sidelines. With a 51.6 percent US market share in the smartphone OS market, leaving Android out of the equation became untenable to many of the researchers using ResearchKit. Ultimately, Cornell decided to take the problem on as a project for its technology graduate students to work on.

The new framework, called ResearchStack, is a stand-alone development SDK that establishes a shared framework by standardizing common functionality and naming schemes across the two platforms, and then providing a bi-directional process that allows researchers to port iOS apps into Android, and Android apps into iOS.  The team is scheduled to release a beta version of the new framework in January 2016, after which ResearchKit users will be able to start migrating their apps into the new development platform and launching them in the Android ecosystem.

While Google has been notably slow to match Apple’s ResearchKit functionality, the company’s Life Sciences Division has rolled out Study Kit, an app with a similar set of features built to support Google’s Baseline Study.

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