Google is providing a major push towards medical research through its new health studies application for Android users.
The app allows you to participate in research projects and contribute data securely, either through surveys or sensor readings.
The first study, led by Harvard Medical and Boston Children’s Hospital, focuses on respiratory diseases such as influenza and COVID-19.
Study participants use the app to report any respiratory symptoms, the precautions they take to prevent illness, and have they tested for COVID-19 or the flu.
The app collects demographic data such as: age, gender and ethnicity as well.
Google wrote in Press releaseResearchers in this study can examine trends to understand the link between how often a person goes outside the home per day and the spread of COVID-19.
The app sends the data to researchers using a technology called (unified learning), which collects trends gathered from multiple devices, rather than pulling information from each participant separately.
The Google Health Studies app is Google’s response to Apple’s research app via hardware iOS.
Last year, Apple launched studies on menstrual cycles, mobility, heart health, and hearing, and the company also allows researchers to build their own apps for iPhones through its ResearchKit program.
Apple and Google are both working to solve some common problems. Medical researchers often have trouble collecting enough viable user data, and it is difficult for ordinary consumers to contribute the data.
Studies conducted through the app come with the same caveats as research related to other commercial wearable products: People who can purchase products, such as an Android phone, can only register.
The collected data is a good way to protect privacy, but it means that researchers are unable to get an accurate look at the information.
Android phone users have a lower average income than iPhone users, which could be beneficial to Google’s health studies.
John Brownstein, chief innovation officer at Boston Children’s Hospital who is working on the study with Google, said: Android devices represent a more diverse data set than iPhones, and we’re very excited about being able to take advantage of that.