Selling My Body to Science: A Field Guide
28th Oct 2013
Hub Culture Executive Editor Edie Lush weighs in on the quantified self movement.
I’ve got my Jawbone Up band counting my steps during the day and my 40 winks at night. I’ve got my Technogym key that links into all the cardio & weight machines at the gym. Strava & Runkeeper both log my runs: I prefer Strava but use Runkeeper because it works with the Up band.
Yet I can’t help but feel vaguely disappointed: l don’t have one place that reflects all of my activity. Bike rides and trips to the Pilates reformer machines aren’t logged anywhere, except manually, which is a task often overlooked, and different device systems can't give me a full picture unless they are with me all the time.
Juniper research says 2014 is the year wearable tech drifts into the mainstream, with $1.5 billion in revenue up from $800 million this year. According to Reuters, by 2017 companies will ship more than 64 million wearable technology devices. That includes 35 million smart watches like the Samsung Galaxy Gear, Pebble, and Apple's rumored iWatch/Siri hybrid, as well as a host of other trippy little items at the vanguard of the IoT, or Internet of Things. The recent move by Angela Ahrendts from Burberry to Apple underscores how much is at stake in getting the fashion side of all this correct.
These new monitoring tools can’t come soon enough for the active early adopter. I had the first generation Nike ipod Sensor and the Up band as soon as it was available, and logged my meals into the Up band until I realized it was taking more time to input than to cook. To be honest I’m a little ambiguous about whether I want to keep track of what I eat. I got a little frightened by the word cloud Jawbone created for me which featured blueberries, chocolate and red wine in ever increasing font sizes. But I liked having the choice to do it.
Huffing and puffing is another thing altogether, because the device does the input work for you. I’m particularly excited about FOCUS' first product TRAINR, a software for wearables which promises to be a personal trainer on your wrist. I met Founder Grant Hughes recently and watched as he did squats in a restaurant as the reps were counted by his mobile phone. I’m not sure which was more fun, watching the waiters scoot around him or see the squat scores piling up as they did.
The Trainr has competition – Basis added health technology guru Esther Dyson to its board in March. Esther told me about her passion for healthcare in Davos back in January. Esther’s passion from this interview with MIT reminds me why I can’t wait for the next step: “That sign by the elevator, it could be customized to say “Hey, Esther. Please take the stairs.” My smartphone could say “Your goal for the day is to walk up 10 flights of stairs and it’s 9 p.m. How are you planning to complete this goal?”
Of course there are scary implications. Who will own the data - me, or my watch? Do I want heathcare companies to notice my runs have dropped off because I’ve injured my knee, again, and am about to submit a request for more physiotherarpy? Maybe, maybe not. It depends on how forward thinking they are. The likely key to avoiding weirdness will be transparency.
Healthcare is notoriously cloudy - from procedure pricing to insurance policies it is very difficult to know how much health, preventative care, procedures and more are really worth. With a cloud of data exhaust following our movements, hopefully the picture will become clearer, and therefore more efficient.
In any case, bring on wearable tech! I’m ready to take the next step, as long as it’s counted.