Customer Experience and Design

The Quantified Self: 6 Trends to Watch For

Each of us has a vision of our ideal self, our own “real world superhero” that we wish to become. We could be this superhero if only we got enough sleep, ate the right food, put in a good work out every day, and regulated our mood. The optimal way to level up and reach these goals begins with the ability to measure and score our lives. With optimal feedback, we could create our optimal life.

Quantified Self is the art of self-knowledge through self-tracking. The Quantified Self movement is made possible by ubiquitous, low-cost, and always-on connected sensors. This places information at our fingertips and allows us to carefully chart a path toward improvement. We can also share our winning strategies and accomplishments with others. On a grand scale, that makes for an interconnected world of healthier, happier people making much more informed decisions.

So, what’s next in the world of Quantified Self? Here are 6 things to be on the look out for:

  1. Passive Tracking: Many of us use our FitBits, Fuel Bands, and/or tracking apps like Livestrong to track our health. Many of these require the user to actively input information, which is in conflict with the Quantitative Self need to make tracking easy. As a result, the next evolution of wearable technology will convert passive tracking into active behavior change. Rather than needing to aggressively monitor your own data, this next generation of gadgets will proactively track and analyze data. For a great example, check out MC10. They have developed sensors that can conform to the human body and are about the size of a postage stamp. They can monitor runners for hydration, football helmets for possible concussion. Reebok is installing these impact sensors to let athletes know if they need to stop training based on body stress.
  2. App Collaboration If you are like me, then you self-track multiple different metrics about yourself on multiple apps and devices. Each has its own separate dashboard and I cannot find correlations between these data sets. Multipurpose devices like the FitBit are a good start towards combing metrics for both activity and sleep, for example, but there is a ways to go. Over recent months there have been a number of entrants into the Quantitative Self collaborative app market including TicTrac. By pulling in the data from a variety of external sources, TicTrac lets you view, compare and visualize data in one place.
  3. Extreme Personalization There are a number of recently established services that provide personalized recommendations. For example, WellnessFX can provide 20+ actionable metrics about your current state of health using a single blood sample. 23andme offers a detailed overview of your genetic profile. This includes ancestral lineages as well as specific disease risks and drug sensitivities. They will even use the Melody Lab (nice name for a lab if I do say so myself) to create a unique jingle based on your DNA. This extreme personalization is a fast-growing trend, as this previously advanced and expensive technology can now be offered at consumer prices.
  4. Evolution of Game Mechanics: Perhaps the most effective aspect of the Quantified Self movement thus far has been the way that game mechanics have been integrated into fitness tracking. Check out “Zombies, Run!” for a smartphone app that turns your jog into a zombie chase scenario. Your new extra incentives include: fun, addiction, and the fear of being attacked by the undead. Expect game mechanics within fitness tracking apps to become increasingly more sophisticated.
  5. Augmented Reality: Google Glass has yet to be released, but some are already arguing that this innovation may usher in a post-smartphone era. Regardless of whether we will look back on Google Glasses as a game changer or a shorter term fad, what is certainly true is that augmented reality devices like this would usher in a new set of tools for the Quantified Self. One area where Google Glass will make a big difference is in the tracking of calories consumed. Current food tracking apps are laborious and error prone. It’s somewhat easy to enter and tag take out and fast food, but ever try to track a home cooked meal? I have a giant chalkboard in my kitchen to do the math, and it can be exhausting. So, imagine wearing Google Glass and, instead of manually entering ingredients (and then dividing by serving), simply log ingredients by voice while you are cooking.
  6. Quantified Self and the EHR: What kind of information should exist in a health record? Work is already underway through organizations like Project Health Design to classify and accurately track all of the bits and bytes that comprise Quantified Self and store them in the EHR. Project Health Design calls this data Observations of Daily Living (ODLs), which can range from quantitative measures of sleep, activity, mood, and much more. These ODLs can then be converted into actionable intelligence for the patient and their healthcare provider.

Any trends you think I missed? Let me know about them by commenting below.

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Melody Smith Jones

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