Sleep Apnea Association Leverages IBM’s Watson, Apple’s ResearchKit for Study

In the American Sleep Apnea Association's latest effort to better understand the disorder, the group is teaming up with IBM on a new crowdsourced study that takes advantage of the tech giant's Watson platform. And the project will use technology from Apple that turns iPhones into data-collection tools for medical research.

IBM’s Watson has been making friends in the association space recently, last month teaming up with the American Heart Association to help improve the heart health of America’s workforce.

This month, IBM is collaborating with the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) and the American Sleep Apnea Association on another health issue that Watson may be well-suited to help solve. IBM and ASAA will take advantage of Apple’s open-source ResearchKit platform, which allows developers to create iOS apps specifically for medical research.

The SleepHealth test, the first ResearchKit test to be conducted using the Watson Health Cloud, will enable researchers to crowdsource data from the public to learn more about how sleep patterns affect health. Adam Amdur, ASAA’s chief patient officer, says that the app-based approach represents a promising new way to investigate the causes of a disorder that’s often described as “night terror” and “a silent killer.”

“The ASAA has long advocated clinical trials and studies so we can learn more about sleep apnea, but the SleepHealth study and app represent a radical new approach to sleep research—or research into any medical field, for that matter,” Amdur wrote in a blog post on IBM’s website. “So I feel like we’re doing something that could have a huge impact on peoples’ lives.”

Carl Stepnowsky, Ph.D., ASAA’s chief science officer and an associate professor at UCSD, noted that harnessing technology to gather patient data fits nicely with the association’s mission.

“We’ve made life the laboratory for this study by crowdsourcing data and input to achieve an unprecedented understanding of sleep in a noninvasive manner,” Stepnowsky said in a news release. “This study also marks the association’s commitment to patient-led research and data-driven discovery. With ResearchKit and Watson Health Cloud, this new app will help us build the world’s largest longitudinal study to collect data on both healthy and unhealthy sleepers that can be published as an open study and shared with other researchers.”

Study participants must be at least 18 years old and must own a personal (not shared) iPhone. The platform also supports the Apple Watch. Those interested in participating can learn more at, an online community of people and organizations focused on sleep and health.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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