THE (REAL) DREAM OF WEAR­ABLE COM­PUT­ING

How the Com­bi­na­tion of Track­ing and Big Data Will Be the Next Big Thing.

HWM (Singapore) - - Think - BY ALVIN SOON

If you’re shop­ping for an ac­tiv­ity tracker to­day, you’ll be spoiled for choice; there are track­ers from Fit­bit, Withings, Nike, Jaw­bone, and Mis­fit, among oth­ers, with more to come.

Ac­tiv­ity track­ers sell a great dream. Wear one, know how much you’re mov­ing (or not mov­ing) in a day, and get mo­ti­vated to move more, be­come healthier and lose weight. But I’ve used a cou­ple of th­ese things, and the ex­cite­ment over the po­ten­tial per­sonal im­prove­ment al­ways fiz­zles out af­ter a while.

The sim­ple prob­lem is that a ma­chine doesn’t re­place the lack of per­sonal mo­ti­va­tion. All ac­tiv­ity track­ers do now is tell you what you’ve al­ready done; they don’t tell you what you should do to ac­tu­ally be­come healthier.

A tracker to­day might tell me how many steps to­day I’ve al­ready taken, but imag­ine one which buzzes me to move af­ter sit­ting down for too long (to be fair, some of them al­ready have this fea­ture). In­stead of hav­ing to in­put my foods man­u­ally into an app, imag­ine a tracker which tells me dur­ing din­ner that I’ve busted my caloric in­take for the day and re­ally should stop stuff­ing my face. Or how about a tracker which can mon­i­tor my blood, and tell me that the rea­son I’ve been feel­ing tired th­ese last cou­ple of days is be­cause I haven’t been get­ting enough iron in my diet?

Now imag­ine an ac­tiv­ity tracker which doesn’t just track your ac­tiv­ity, but can tie up im­por­tant biomark­ers with big data sta­tis­tics that let you know not just how ac­tive you are dur­ing the day, but how you can im­prove your life­style and diet to be at peak health.

Sounds far-fetched? Per­haps not. Be­fore he co-cre­ated Google Glass, Babak Parviz helped de­velop con­tact lenses which could help di­a­bet­ics mon­i­tor their blood su­gar lev­els elec­tron­i­cally with­out the need for nee­dles. Ac­cord­ing to Parviz, many of the biomark­ers that doc­tors get from blood sam­ples are also found on the sur­face of the eye.

Com­pa­nies like WellnessFX in the US are lead­ing con­sumer­driven med­i­cal care. By pro­vid­ing di­rect ac­cess to ad­vanced blood tests, their cus­tomers can mon­i­tor their health sta­tus via ad­vanced biomark­ers to stay in tip-top con­di­tion and re­verse po­ten­tial health risks be­fore symp­toms ap­pear.

Com­bine the two nascent tech­nolo­gies to­gether and you have the dream of wear­ables. Pre­vi­ous Pepsi and Ap­ple CEO John Sculley kept al­lud­ing to this in­evitable syn­ergy be­tween the fu­ture of per­sonal sen­sor tech­nol­ogy, big data and con­sumer­driven health­care. I might not want to put good money down for a tracker which tells me the num­ber of steps I take in a day, but for one which can help me lose weight, feel great, be healthier and warn me in ad­vance of po­ten­tial health prob­lems? I’ll take one for ev­ery­one in my fam­ily.

"All ac­tiv­ity track­ers do now is tell you what you’ve al­ready done; they don’t

tell you what you should do to ac­tu­ally be­come

healthier."

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