Apple Watch’s data ‘black box’ poses research problems

Apple Watch’s data ‘black box’ poses research problems


Apple Watch | Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

A Harvard biostatistician is rethinking plans to use Apple Watches as part of a research study after finding inconsistencies in the heart rate variability data collected by the devices. Because Apple tweaks the watch’s algorithms as needed, the data from the same time period can change without warning.

“These algorithms are what we would call black boxes — they’re not transparent. So it’s impossible to know what’s in them,” JP Onnela, associate professor of biostatistics at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and developer of the open-source data platform Beiwe, told The Verge.

Onnela doesn’t usually include commercial wearable devices like the Apple Watch in research studies. For the most part, his teams use research-grade…

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