IBM’s renowned supercomputer, Watson, will crunch data collected through Apple’s watches and devices to supply to insurers and medical professionals in a lucrative new deal.

The tech firm launched the Watson Health arm that will focus on providing the medical industry with clinical data analysis yesterday.

Apple Watch are available to pre-order from the US. Image: ©Apple
Apple Watch are available to pre-order from the US. Image: ©Apple

Clinicians who build apps with Apple’s ResearchKit, a SDK for creating smartphone apps for medical research, can get access to IBM's cloud computing platform to store and analyse the data.

IBM said that information will be anonymised and must have an ‘opt-in’ function.

More broadly, IBM Watson will work with Apple, medical device maker Johnson & Johnson and diabetes device maker Medtronic to assist the healthcare industry. For example, when developing a treatment plan for a patient, doctors must factor in clinical trial information, medical journal articles and, increasingly, data gathered from wearables and medical devices, said Steve Gold, vice president of the Watson Group.

The Watson Health Cloud aims to combine these data streams and help physicians make better-informed care decisions, he said. "Health care data is very unstructured. There's exponentially more data available in text," said Gold.

Watson health will work with Apple, electronic device makers Johnson & Johnson and Medtronic using the cloud computing platform.

Johnson & Johnson will work with IBM to develop mobile apps to assist recovery from joint replacement and spinal surgery and manage chronic illnesses like diabetes. The manufacturer will store the data on Watson and use the platform's cognitive abilities.

Watson Health will collect information from Medtronic’s insulin pumps, glucose monitors and other devices for monitoring diabetes. Analysing this data will help doctors come up with more personalised treatments.

IBM has acquired two companies involved in big data to aid the development of personal medical care plans. Explorys has its own cloud platform that merges clinical and financial data from hospitals and care providers to identify treatment patterns and outcomes. Another, Phytel, sells cloud services to care providers so they can collaborate and coordinate patient care digitally.