UC Berkeley and Bitmark partner to bring data donation to public health studies

Bitmark technology allows users to take ownership of their digital lives and help advance the frontiers of public health

Our phones and Fitbits track our steps, calories, sleep cycles, and more. This data is empowering and helps improve our wellbeing. This data can also aid research in myriad areas. What if you could safely donate your data directly to those who are advancing the frontiers of public health?

Today, we are extremely excited to announce our partnership with UC Berkeley School of Public Health to explore how to accomplish exactly that.

Bitmark will fund two School of Public Health research fellows to conduct studies that securely incorporate personal data from our phones and other devices. When students return in the fall semester, they will have the opportunity to transition from passive internet users to active participants, taking ownership of their digital lives, and helping to advance public health.

“The School of Public Health at UC Berkeley is excited to partner with Bitmark Inc. on this research fellowship. It is a great opportunity for our young researchers to gain valuable hands-on experience at the intersection of public health and technology.”

— Lauren Goldstein, PhD, Director of Research Development, School of Public Health, UC Berkeley.

Announcing the Berkeley fellows!

Bitmark is pleased to announce Madelena Ng and Victor Villalobos as the fellows who will be using Bitmark technology in their future studies as part of this new partnership. In addition to funding support, Bitmark has committed to providing dedicated engineering resources to work closely with fellowship recipients to help them realize their research goals. Here are the brief abstracts about each of their research project plans:

Study 1: Ameliorating Recruitment Challenges for Women’s Health: Madelena Ng

Madelena is a doctoral student in Public Health. Her research aims to evaluate whether digital health technologies alleviate existing challenges in clinical research.

Objective: This study assesses whether recruitment and data collection into a women’s health focused digital study is optimized by leveraging Bitmark’s capability with securing personal data ownership.

Hypothesis: Physical activity and quality of sleep are consistently reported to promote better overall health; we hypothesize these factors are positively correlated with a telling element of women’s health — regular menstrual cycles. In addition, we hypothesize that educating potential participants about data ownership and the Bitmark app will lead to improved participation and participant experience in the proposed digital study.

Methods: Personal health data will be sourced entirely from digital health technologies, specifically Fitbit and Clue, to assess the effects of health behaviors (e.g., physical activity and sleep) on the menstrual cycle. In addition, eligible participants will be randomly assigned to either receive or not receive an education module about data ownership and the goals of the Bitmark app.

Study 2: Improving Diabetes Care Protocols by studying remission cases: Victor Villalobos

Victor is a doctoral candidate in Public Health, his expertise is behavioral design, biostatistics, and lifestyle interventions.

Objective: The objective of the diabetes remission registry is to refine and improve diabetes care protocols through the study of diabetes remission cases.

Methods: Participants will be recruited through digital and traditional channels. After informed consent and verification of clinical improvement, we will apply qualitative research instruments about their natural history of remission. With the use of Bitmark, participants will be able to share detailed information regarding their lifestyles — i.e. dietary composition and frequency; physical activity intensity, duration and frequency; sleeping patterns — and physiological indicators collected through their smartphones and connected devices (i.e. weight scales, heart rate wrists monitors, etc).

Expected Results: We expect to generate insights on the dietary, physical activity and psychological strategies that increase the probability to achieve and maintain diabetes remission.

Further details of this research can be found at diabetesremission.org.

How the studies will work

Bitmark is developing simple tools that connect researchers to potential data donors through popular Messenger apps such as Facebook Messenger and WeChat. These tools, also known as a “bot,” automate the entire donation process:

  1. discovering available studies,
  2. extracting personal data and converting it into digital property,
  3. recording consent such that a researcher can use the valuable digital property in their study.

Berkeley students will know exactly where their data is being used and for what purposes; researchers can directly confirm the provenance of data and the students’ consent to use it. Behind the scenes, the Bitmark bot interfaces with the Bitmark blockchain to provide a verifiable record of data donations, protecting both the researcher and data donor, without relying on central intermediaries.

Studies will collect data two main categories of data:

  1. iOS HealthKit data — such as characteristics (birth date, blood type,…), basic samples (height, weight, body fat,…), sleep samples, food samples (calories, vitamins,…), exercise samples (steps, flights climbed,…) and reproductive samples.
  2. Health tech wearables, devices, and sensor data from over 300 different data streams — such as Fitbit, Nest, Aware, and more.

Individuals can also ask the Bitmark bot simple questions such as, “How is my data been used?” and get back instant answers. At any time participants can opt out of donating data.

About Bitmark

Earlier this year, Bitmark launched their technology in private beta to allow all individuals to own and share their digital data, and take advantage of the value they create online. Currently our personal data is being held in our smart phones, fitness tracking devices, and more; with Bitmark individuals have the freedom to share their data with other individuals, companies, non-profits, schools, and more.

Bitmark is still in a private beta, if you would like to keep up with when the public technology will be released, please sign up to receive infrequent emails here.



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