You wake up feeling rested thanks to systems that “know” the best temperatures and lighting for your personal sleep patterns. While brushing your teeth, a smart (very smart) mirror tracks your vital signs and pronounces all systems go. It then suggests a high-protein breakfast, since the intensive financial analysis on that day’s calendar will demand concentration. But first to the gym, where biometric sensors embedded in the fabric of your workout clothes track minute-by-minute progress.
A far-off future vision from Hollywood? Not at all. These technologies are on the horizon and may be impacting our daily lives in years to come. And they dovetail into a massive societal and technological shift that Cisco calls the Internet of Everything (IoE).
Today, there are “only” 10 billion connected “things” on the planet, but Cisco projects this number could explode to 50 billion connections by 2020. Tires, roads, refrigerators, supermarket shelves, jet engine parts, soil, you name it—all will be infused with cheap, tiny sensors that will collectively generate terabytes of data to be filtered for key insights. Those insights will then be shared with still more connected things. It’s all part of a convergence of emerging IoE technologies such as Big Data analytics, advanced collaboration, cloud, video, and mobility.
Closer to home, the Internet of Everything includes the Quantified Self movement. This infuses technology directly into people’s lives, collecting data and gleaning insights that may in the future improve health, happiness, and productivity. In a world of aging populations, chronic disease epidemics, and overburdened healthcare systems, Quantifiable Self could prove essential.
Here are just a few emerging Quantified Self technologies:
- Video cameras with visual recognition could be useful in seeing pulse, respiration and blood/oxygen saturation
- Textiles may act as sensors to monitor infants, athletes, the injured, or workers in high-risk environments
- EKG iPhone case (FDA approved) may in the future provide a detailed electrocardiogram
- Devices that measure air quality, pesticide levels in foods, and other environmental health factors
- Sensors in pill cases could help track compliance with medication regimens
- Electronic Tattoos may in the future be able to sense heart, brain, and muscle functions, along with body temperature and hydration levels
- Accelerometers to capture motion and heart rhythms to determine sleep patterns, levels of movement, and occupational stress
These technologies may one day seamlessly capture data and help diagnose personal issues quickly and accurately. But to gain the benefits, we will need to change our behaviors.
According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, eighty percent of Americans do not get enough exercise because workouts are, well, work. Quantified Self apps integrate behavior-change principles into games that motivate people to create positive new habits. Games, after all, are great motivators. They set defined goals, provide clear feedback while awarding points, delineate levels of competition, and encourage teamwork. Whether you are zapping aliens or trying to lose fat, state of play and positive emotions can go a long way.
The apps may also help us visualize our data in an appealing way, making it more interesting and understandable. Awareness is key to transformation and reinvention. If we can understand ourselves better, we can build personalized daily programs that focus on restful sleep, exercise, and eating healthy foods that will lead to improved selves.
Here are some Quantified Self apps with supporting tracking devices and sensors:
- Nike FuelBand and Fitbit are personal activity trackers that monitor progress toward goals, and then allow results to be shared with friends. Crowd-funded Amiigo and Misfit Shine are related concepts that will be launched in the near future.
- Zamzee measures physical activity; its website allows families to compete for points and prizes.
- Scanadu devices (in development) will enable tracking of temperature, heart rate, pulse-wave transit time, urine composition, stress levels, and oximetry. The information can be shared with doctors and analyzed to determine trends.
- InsideTracker’s home blood testing also provides recommendations to improve sleep, boost energy, reduce pain, or enhance performance.
- Fujitsu Laboratories developed a solution to measures a person’s pulse in real time using facial imaging through a camera or webcam.
Quantified Self—and IoE as a whole—could have a key role to play in creating a better, healthier world. In particular, they could impact the management and understanding of chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension, which take a heavy toll on personal well-being and society.
But for health data to prove truly transformational, things need to change beyond our personal behaviors. It will require an infrastructure to connect devices and analyze information. And beyond technical hurdles, privacy issues will need to be addressed. Organizations such as the not-for-profit Health Data Exploration project seek to uncover health insights from aggregate data captured from individuals and companies while ensuring security.
We all face vexing health issues in the coming years, whether as individuals or as citizens. By connecting the unconnected, we can be challenged to stay healthy and achieve extraordinary things.
Tell us what you think.