A few days ago, a publication from The Verge revealed that data from the Apple Watch, Cupertino’s firm smartwatch, may not be reliable in the scientific environment. The fact was disclosed after JP Onnela, a professor at the TH School of Public Health. Chan from Harvard University claims that sudden changes in the device’s algorithm can be responsible for changes in the data.
According to Onnela, the main problem is the lack of transparency in Apple’s software. So far, it does not make the data available in its total integrity to developers. He further explains “These algorithms can be called black boxes – they’re no transparent. So it’s impossible to know what’s in them.”
Usually, Onnela does not include commercial wearable devices like the Apple Watch in research studies. For the most part, his teams use research-grade devices that have a focus on scientific studies. However, the interest in commercially available products comes as part of a collaboration with the department of neurosurgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He knew that there were sometimes data issues with those products. He and His team wanted to check how severe they were before getting started.
Apple Watch “Black Box” reduces the transparency of collected data
To evaluate the problem, Onnela tested a set of daily data collected by the Apple Watch. This data is exported two times in an interval of months. Once on September 5th, 2020, and a second time on April 15th, 2021. Since the data was for the same period, he was expecting the info to be almost identical. However, that was not the case. Confirming his biggest concerns, the alteration made to the way that Apple Watch interprets the data also affected the data already stored.
Apparently, the Black Box wearable algorithm does not show the raw data collected by the device. Instead, it only lets researchers export information after it has been analyzed and filtered through an algorithm of some kind.
Although the Apple Watch wasn’t developed for use in an ambient that requires max precision, such as scientific research, the device already got certifications for medical purposes. Fortunately, the variation of data for casual usage still is tolerable. However, you may not trust on its 100% in cases where you really to get really precise information. In other words, users should not rely on this data in vital circumstances.
Apple has changed the wearable scene recently with a focus on medical areas. The Apple Watch was the first wearable to come with an ECG feature. Most recently, the company was suggested to bring its own blood-glucose level monitoring. However, this feature is reportedly years away from turning into a reality.