In January, the National Institute of Health’s “All of Us” program added a significant data collection channel. The NIH’s big data research program compiles and analyzes health and medical information from volunteers, with the goal of enrolling one million participants. The NIH shares the data with approved research studies to support discoveries in medical diagnosis and treatment.

With the new Fitbit Bring-Your-Own-Device (BOYD) project, All of Us program participants can volunteer to share selected data from their Fitbit accounts. It’s important to underscore the point that this project won’t pull individual data without explicit user permission.

According to the NIH, the BOYD project is a fundamental component of the All of Us program because it unlocks access to information collected by digital health technologies. The core function of wearables such as Fitbit devices is data collection whenever and wherever a user chooses. The potential benefit from a data mine when millions of users share continuous metrics on personal information such as physical activity, sleep, weight, heart rate, nutrition, and water intake — just for starters — is massive.

The basics of scientific study require representative sample sizes, controlled intervention, and rigorous statistical measurement and analysis. To make any difference in the world, studies must meet dual tests of validity and reliability: “Does it measure what it says it measures?” and “Is it repeatable?” There are plenty of holes into which to fall when conducting research and running clinical studies, but the most basic element, representative samples, is the foundation on which everything else depends.

As the All of Us program grows in size, researchers will be able to work with ever-more-representative groups for testing or analysis. In a world where 10 test subjects has been an acceptable sample size, the ability to analyze data or recruit volunteers from pools of thousands of subjects filtered with multiple layers of ultrafine granularity would be the research equivalent of choosing a dessert from a 30-foot Viennese table.

Fitbit’s participation in kicking off the digital health data collection aspect of the NIH project is an excellent start because of the number of customers and devices, but also because Fitbit is the category leader. We reasonably expect to hear about additional fitness and health wearables sharing data with “All of Us.”