Getting Started

The ResearchKit and CareKit Glossary

Active Tasks

Active tasks are pre-defined tasks that provide you easy access to the device sensors. Each active task in ResearchKit includes a series of steps that instruct the user to perform the task. You can provide the instructional text and ResearchKit will provide the user interface and flow. While users perform the task, on-device sensors are turned on and data are collected and made available to you. Active tasks within ResearchKit support various categories such as cognition, hearing, speech and vision. Some examples of active tasks within ResearchKit include a dbHL Tone Audiometry task, Amsler Grid task, and Range of Motion tests. New active tasks are always being built and added to the framework both by Apple and the developer community.


An acronym for application programming interface, the API is a set of functions and procedures allowing the creation of applications that access the features or data of an operating system, application, or other device.


The server where data collected from an app are stored. Apple does not provide a back-end for those using CareKit and ResearchKit; instead developers are required to enter the location of the back-end in the source code when developing their app. Depending on the type of information being collected, the back-end may need to be HIPAA compliant (see HIPAA).


An open source framework that enables clinicians and developers to build beautiful apps that can empower patients by leveraging a variety of customizable modules. CareKit apps make it possible for users to regularly track care plans, monitor their progress, and share their insights with care teams.


Also referred to as informed consent, this is permission granted by a participant to take part in a study after they have been informed of the study procedures, risks, and benefits of participation. ResearchKit has a module that allows potential participants to review the consent form, risks and benefits of a study and to then digitally sign the consent form, which can then be stored as a .pdf file and shared.


Software documentation is written text or illustration that accompanies computer software or is embedded in the source code. The documentation either explains how the software operates or how to use it, and may mean different things to people in different roles.


A collection of standardized and generic functions that can be customized to build an app. ResearchKit and CareKit provide commonly used building blocks (or modules, see below) in the form of source code for users to tailor for their own applications. A framework is not the application itself, rather, the customization and compilation of the modules available in the framework that are needed to build the application.


The front-end is everything involved with what the user sees and interacts with. Common jobs associated with the front-end are UI design, UX design, and web design.


On device database of various health and activity metrics that can be shared at the user’s discretion. These data, which users can view in their Health app, can often be populated by connected 3rd party sensors/devices with a user’s permission and/or captured with a user’s Apple Watch or iPhone.

Learn more about HealthKit


Human Interface Guidelines (HIG) are software development documents which offer iOS app developers guidance and recommendations. Their aim is to improve the experience for the users by making app interfaces more intuitive, learnable and consistent.

See Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines


Acronym for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, legislation passed in the United States in 1996 requiring safeguarding of protected health information (PHI) and fining those who fail to enact the required safeguards. Information on how data and privacy will be safeguarded is typically included in the informed consent for a research project, and HIPAA requirements pertain to PHI collected during a research study.


An integrated development environment (IDE) is a software application that provides comprehensive facilities to computer programmers for software development.

Investigator Support Program

A competitive grant program awarding Apple Watches to researchers wanting to incorporate these devices in their study. More information, including how to apply, can be obtained by emailing

Learn more about the program


Acronym for Institutional Review Board, the IRB ensures that human research subjects’ rights and privacy are protected and that adequate safety controls are in place to protect subjects’ welfare. Most institutions, such as universities, have an IRB and many will honor external IRB approval. IRBs generally wish to see all study materials, including app screenshots, in order to approve a study. These ethics committees, can approve, reject, modify, or monitor any research they review.


Commonly performed functions that in aggregate make up the framework. For example, consent is a ResearchKit module as almost all research studies require a user to consent to participate. Similarly, tracking task completion and visualizing trends are common within care plans and are offered as modules in the CareKit framework.

Open Source

Source code that is made available for anyone to access, utilize, and contribute to. In the case of the ResearchKit and CareKit frameworks, the source code is available to anyone without the need for Apple’s approval and/or involvement in your project.


An open source framework introduced by Apple that allows researchers and developers to create powerful apps for medical research. The ResearchKit API is designed to provide a great user experience while letting you focus on the content of your research.


A series of questions delivered to a user to collect subjective data. Surveys may also be referred to as questionnaires, patient reported outcomes (PRO), or, in the case of an electronically administered survey, an ePRO. If surveys have been studied extensively and compared to other surveys or more objective results with published data, they will be referred to as validated surveys.


Acronym for user interface, or the visuals that a user sees on screen for an app.