The current issue of Wired Magazine is fascinating. It offers an in depth investigation of the new web based services and hardware products that are making tracking your body and all of its physical activity easier than ever.
To give you an idea of what your upcoming morning might entail, I’ll quote Gary Wolf of Wired who fully immersed himself with all of this technology for the issue’s featured article:
I got up at 6:20 this morning, after going to bed at 12:40 am. I woke up twice during the night. My heart rate was 61 beats per minute, and my blood pressure, averaged over three measurements, was 127/ 74. My mood was a 4 on a scale of 5. My exercise time in the last 24 hours was 0 minutes, and my maximum heart rate during exercise was not calculated. I consumed 400 milligrams of caffeine and 0 ounces of alcohol.
As the article discusses, this may seem like a bit overkill to some. However, for a geek like me who is as equally health obsessed I couldn’t be more excited. These tools will give me access to data about my body and my physical activity that I was never able to capture before. Body analytics is starting to really take off because the tools available are becoming automated to the point where you can just “set it and forget it.” They don’t require the manual logging process that they used to.
The most well known personal metric that everyone is familiar with is the scale. However, the scale has been a pretty dumb device. You stand on it and it tells you your weight. Perhaps if you have a more advanced scale it will tell you some other stats as well. However, none of the information is logged. You can’t compare your progress over time or gather any of the insights that collecting data would provide. New scales are starting to change that. A scale by Tanita measures your weight, body fat, body water, bone mass and muscle mass among other stats and wirelessly beams it to your computer over bluetooth so you can chart your progress over time. An upcoming scale by BodyTrace aims to do the same thing but adds a social media component on top of it.
Perhaps the most popular personal metric tool is the Nike + iPod that records your runs, logs it online and then gives you the ability to see your progress over time and set goals. Other devices like the Fitbit keeps tabs on every step you take and calculates your caloric burn by having users wear a small clip-on device 24/7. The Zeo is a device that serves to be your “Personal Sleep Coach” by capturing very detailed data on the quantity, quality, and depth of your sleep each night. These are just some of the many examples of the devices that are on the market today.
The devices like the ones above and the many others that are like them are only going to get better. They will become more automated and capture new data that wasn’t available before. While all of this new data that we will have on our body will be extremely useful for us as individuals, it’s perhaps most useful when users of these devices submit their data to the cloud and allow data analysis to be done in the aggregate. In Wired’s article, Nike reported some extremely interesting and unexpected statistics regarding running behavior that would have never been known otherwise.
While some of these devices may seem unnecessary or merely as tools to feed our addiction to data, I see them as things that are going to revolutionize the way medicine works. Current medicine tends to be reactive in nature. We only run all of the tests and gather all of the information after the body is showing physical signs of sickness. However, with health care costs rising faster than ever before it’s no secret that preventative medicine is the most cost effective way to handle these costs. These self-monitoring tools that we are now starting to have affordable access to will be the best preventative medicine out there – warning us before there is a problem and before there are any observable symptoms that present themselves.
Although the title of this post may hint otherwise, I am very excited to become addicted to all of these great new technologies. Utilizing the cloud as a repository to store all of the data we capture about our body will allow us to come to new and exciting insights about ourselves – both through our own measurements as well as through comparative analysis using the data of others. The hardware manufacturers that can create the best data capture devices and the web companies that can best make use of these new data sources are going to be some of the leaders of the next web. They will give us the ability to be healthier, live better and truly optimize our lives.