Want to know how far you walk each day? What you’ve eaten? How you slept? What your genes are? Or monitor your mood?
There are tools/apps for all that and more.
The first step is some form of data collection; this could be via a wearable sensor, a phone app, a test or self reporting. Here are some examples;
Wearable Sensor most often are used for collecting data on your activity, the most famous is perhaps the Nike+ Fuelband, which tracks your activity allowing you to see your improvement, compete with friends and post annoying progress reports on your facebook page.
Phone Apps can also be used to track activity, including activity of a different kind, Sleepcycle is an app designed to wake you at the ideal time in your sleep cycle, and to work you need to put the phone in contact with your mattress so that it can translate your sleep movement into sleep patterns. It then sets the alarm off when you are in a light part of your sleep cycle, making the waking up experience much easier.
Another app looks at your heart rate, via an ear sensor, to monitor to your reaction to stress and stimuli.
Bar codes can be scanned for a number of uses, often for price comparison, but more interesting to check for ingredients which is important for allergy sufferers, an nutritional information which is helpful for dieters such as the WeightWatchers app. Some apps combine the food intake with the activity measurements.
Genetic testing 23 and me, this test will check for the genetic markers of diseases, analyse your ancestry and give you information on genetic traits. The test costs 99 USD, and they will ship internationally for another 79 USD.
I’m curious enough to do the test; I may find out if I will inherit otosclerosis which has left my mother deaf. I’m also curious about the bitterness taste marker, I can’t stand Brussels sprouts and this might give me the excuse I need.
It’s interesting that people are starting to use these tools to motivate them to change behaviour, friends who use Nike’s fuelband or similar tools find it motivating to see their progress. Given that we under-report food intake when we self report analysing our food in real time may help people adjust their food choices. And the genetic testing has given some people better understanding of genetic issues; the film on the 23andme website shows a case study when a woman found a marker for Celiac disease and on further testing was found to be a correct diagnosis.
There are concerns regarding data privacy and use of the data – Insurance companies could adjust all their risk calculations on the basis of the genetic testing for example. But in a world of an “obesity epidemic” these are powerful tools for individuals to monitor and change their health patterns.