Getting Started, Development

Accessing SensorKit Data

The SensorKit framework makes additional data types available from users with iPhones running iOS 14.0+ and Apple Watches paired to these devices. Access to these data types is limited to research uses and requires an app to have a private entitlement, which is reviewed separately for each study. Read on to learn more about the process and requirements for enabling SensorKit data collection.

Consider your research needs.

Ask yourself if these data are central to your study hypothesis. Given the sensitive nature of many of these data types, if they are for exploration secondary to your study purposes, you may want to consider the implications (see below) – as accessing these data types may not be what’s best for your study and study participants. You should also be aware that participants must consent to any data types that will be collected in the study consent form and your app must clearly disclose to participants how it will be using SensorKit Data. The following data types are available through SensorKit:

  • Ambient light (chromaticity, lux, sensor placement)
  • Device usage (includes various metrics such as notifications from apps and other information characterizing how a user interacts with their iPhone)
  • Keyboard (various metrics about the length of words, time between keystrokes, and errors a user makes while typing on their iPhone)
  • Messages (incoming and outgoing messages a user sends and receives, as well as a unique identifier for the message sender/recipient)
  • Phone usage (incoming and outgoing calls, call duration, along with a unique identifier for the caller)
  • Visits (distances from home a user travels, how long they reside at unique locations, and the location category, e.g., work, school, if known)
  • Wrist detection (for Apple Watch users - the time the Watch is worn and the orientation)

Understand the implications of using SensorKit.

Accessing SensorKit data may have significant implications for your study and your app.

  • Timing: Because SensorKit access requires a private entitlement and special review of your request, your app development timeline could be impacted by the entitlement request process.
  • Enrollment: Study participants may be hesitant or unwilling to share SensorKit data, and additional authorization steps could lead to participant attrition during the onboarding process. Educating participants about the need for these data types and setting expectations may help reduce these concerns.
  • Data types and storage: More data equals… more data. Make sure you understand the specific metrics available for each data category and plan your storage needs appropriately.
  • Terms and conditions: Accessing SensorKit data requires additional entitlement agreement to certain terms and conditions for use and handling. Your app and data storage solution may need to pass more stringent security and privacy reviews as well. Weigh the implications of these terms and processes on your current and future plans.
  • Because you, your institution, or company as the researcher will be granted the entitlement, the app will need to be submitted and published under your developer account. If you use an external developer, they should not submit their app under their account. More information about setting up an account is available here, with additional information found in the articles here, including information about the types of membership, enrollment requirements, and potential fee waivers.

Submit a research proposal for consideration.

Fill out the form to tell Apple about your research and plans to use SensorKit data. Don’t include confidential or proprietary information. Send your completed form to sensorkitrequest@apple.com. All requests will be reviewed according to a set of standard criteria.

Download the research proposal form

Apply for the SensorKit entitlement.

Once your research proposal is approved, apply for the SensorKit entitlement for your app (coming soon). If you don’t have a developer account, you’ll need to work with your app developer to access the form and implement the entitlement.

Launch your app and study.

If you’re granted the entitlement, work with your developer to implement the entitlement and ensure you’re collecting SensorKit data as expected. For more information, see Configuring Your Project for Sensor Reading. You’ll first be granted a development entitlement to use when developing your app. Once you have IRB (or comparable ethics board) approval of your study and are ready to launch, you’ll be provided the entitlement to distribute your app to study participants. Please note, your app will still have to pass standard App Store review; being granted the SensorKit entitlement does not imply other necessary approvals have been granted.

When all approvals are granted and you are ready to begin enrolling in your study, you may launch your app and begin distribution to study participants.