Countless owners of smartphones and wearable devices are already using their devices to track their sleep, exercise, blood pressure and other measures of health.

With ResearchKit, biomedical researchers could have an easier time recruiting these users to collect and share their data as part of large-scale clinical studies, the scientific journal Nature reported.

The first five apps built with ResearchKit are designed to study asthma, breast cancer, cardiovascular health, diabetes and Parkinson's disease.

"The ResearchKit framework offers the ability to track disease signs by sensors that are on the phone or on the Apple watch or on third-party devices. Symptoms can also be tracked by people filling out survey information on themselves," said Stephen Friend, president of Washington-based non-profit organisation Sage Bionetworks that developed the apps for ResearchKit.

ResearchKit is a set of tools and services that one can use to assemble a clinical research study.

"It does not become a research study until a protocol gets filed and approved by an institutional review board," said John Wilbanks of Sage Bionetworks.

"What is different now is that you can actually build a lot of the patient-reported outcomes and the quantitative data-gathering into the phone itself, and that you can enroll people natively through a phone," Wilbanks said. ResearchKit will be made available as an open-source framework for other app developers in April.