Microsensors in your shoes compile data on where you go and how much you walk or run. Your workout clothes track your daily progress at the gym and tell you when to slow down or speed up. The pill you swallow reports back on the state of your digestion, vital signs, and overall well-being. And as you sleep, a headband monitors your REM patterns.
A far-fetched sci-fi fantasy? Not at all. It’s merely a glimpse into what might be possible through a movement called “the Quantified Self,” which is part of the wider transformation being driven by the Internet of Everything (IoE).
The Internet of Everything, after all, is about connecting people, processes, data, and things in startling new ways. But ultimately it is the people dimension that looms the largest. Even when the machines are doing the “talking,” it is we who benefit. The whole point of IoE is to transform the ways in which we collaborate and innovate, while arming us with unprecedented real-time insights and awareness about our environments, our workplaces, ourselves.
To that end, the Quantified Self movement employs technology to drive greater self-awareness by tracking data related to exercise, diet, health maintenance, financial management, learning, and so forth.
Some of this data will be captured from such sources as social media interactions. Other data will come from sensors, embedded in clothing and wearable bands. Along with advances in collaboration, analytics, mobility, and the other pillars of IoE, the availability of cheap, ubiquitous sensors is driving the transformation. In the Quantified Self, such sensors will compile data on moods, habits, diet, drug combinations, and just about anything we do. In the process we will gain key insights on personal trends.
A key tenet of the Quantified Self movement is that by setting concrete goals and quantifying progress, people drive their own success. And by co-opting some of the techniques of gaming, Quantified Self introduces one of the greatest motivators of all, fun.
The Quantified Self presents enterprises with important lessons and opportunities. For starters, business leaders need to understand that most employees naturally want to get better at their jobs and be more productive and knowledgeable. To some extent, enterprises simply need to get out of the way and not overly complicate the process. But they can still provide a platform for Quantified Self-driven progress.
A great example of this is an enhanced learning technique called Spaced Repetition. Roger Craig, who set the all-time single-day record for Jeopardy! winnings in 2011, used this technique; today, cloud-based technologies are making it available on apps. The basic theory behind Spaced Repetition is that there is an optimum time between memorization drills that increases the brain’s retention of knowledge. Spaced Repetition seeks the optimum algorithm for memorization, based on the concept of old-fashioned flash cards. But the flash cards don’t have to be cardboard — they can be multimedia, accessed through links on the web, video, or mobile apps.
Enterprises could make great use of Spaced Repetition in their corporate education and sales training programs. And it can be applied to just about any business area or process. Imagine quick-study employees learning new tasks in less time — or the increases in productivity that would result when workers become better at retaining information.
Quantified Self tools can also track worker productivity, engagement, and satisfaction in novel new ways. The Quantified Enterprise would encourage employees to manage their time in more productive ways. Imagine if you could track your workday with minimal effort, and then analyze the results. The sites you visit, what you download, the cloud services you use, the length of meetings, how much time is spent on a given project — all would form a clear pattern of productivity, while defining areas for improvement.
The Quantified Enterprise represents new ways of examining the relationship between workers and their data. Today, many enterprises don’t understand how to effectively quantify and measure what is being produced and how workers are doing it.
By adopting some of the key concepts of the Quantified Self movement, enterprises — and self-motivated employees — can get a much clearer picture of where they are, where they are going, and how to get there faster.