By Chris Crockford
In the past people have told me that to glimpse into the future of technology, you need to understand what is going on in California, for what happens there is quickly rolled out globally. Earlier this year, the Quantified Self conference took place in California, and last week the European chapter held their first conference on quantifying personal metrics.
Quantified Self is a collaboration of users and tool makers who share an interest in self-knowledge through self-tracking technology, and whose interests include behavior monitoring, lifelogging, lifestreaming, location tracking, digitizing body info, and biometric data.
The organisation’s European conference agenda included topics such as ”Swimming Goggles used to Measure Heart Rate, Lessons from a Year of Heart Rate Data” and “Tracking My Sleep”. Its diversity demonstrates how as this unassuming group grows in presence globally, the ability for the consumer to understand their human performance metrics from all sorts of sources and gadgets is going to grow exponentially over the next few years.
Currently the world is full of fitness freaks. People everywhere like to run, work out, and today’s gyms are testimony to this trend. They are full of people trying to follow all sorts of metrics about themselves. From understanding their heart rate zone for fat burn, or for cardiovascular training, through to comprehending how many calories they’ve burnt off in the last session.
The typical gym user works with the tools that are available to them in that location but these are normally limited to session-specific metrics such as heart rate, duration of exercise or calories consumed. Some users may augment these tools through the use of portable devices such as heart rate monitors in the form of chest straps and watches, but generally during each session they are working on temporal, short term metrics.
Trending over the medium term is harder but not impossible for the fitness freak. It is possible through such portable devices to log GPS and accelerometer data as well as heart rate. In such a manner the fitness freak can take their work out of the gym, and log how they are performing in real time in the open world. With shared motivation the power of the net allows for groups of runners to compare routes, and times, taking into consideration the geographic terrain to be covered, allowing them to adapt their workout accordingly.
Back at home the fitness freak can track their weight using scales that upload data every day to their smartphone via WiFi whilst they stand on the same scales and brush their teeth in the morning. But this is fitness. What happens when the fitness afficiondao starts crossing the boundary into the world of consumer health data? As consumer devices become cheaper and more understood, the opportunity exists to integrate health parameters into a user's fitness programme. A simple weekly blood pressure check can be added into the same information system used for general performance data.
Certainly the web portals that allow integration of fitness data are moving to incorporate general health and wellbeing data and advice, moving towards nutrition, with automated food diaries and dietary advice. One such US based online portal now offers tailored health, diet and fitness programmes based on analyzing a user’s blood. Between two and four tests are recommended over the year, and the service provides the ability to view blood results against optimal ranges, to track performance over time, and provides food and supplement information and recommendations specific to the user’s blood biochemistry along with tailored nutrition plans designed to aid individual goals, needs, and preferences.
The complexity of understanding available to the fitness freak continues to expand yearly. What will be really interesting over the next few years is to watch the reverse happen, such that the recovering heart attack patient will utilise these new fitness systems to aid their recovery. Or the newly diagnosed Type 2 diabetes sufferer will use a smartphone enabled fitness and insulin programme to manage their condition with all the fidelity of a fitness freak on a journey of self-discovery.
The editorial views expressed in this article are solely those of the author(s) and will not necessarily reflect the views of the GSMA, its Members or Associate Members.