Personal Healthcare & Data


Advertising Age has a summary of the best Health & Wellness products  at CES09. I have been fascinated by the industrial and interaction design work, done by my friends from Carnegie Mellon (Ivo Stivoric & Chris Kasabach), at BodyMedia. The product has developed significantly since the early days in 1999 where they were focused on the initial design and consumer adoption. It’s great to see the development of a multi-focused products built on similar technologies with offerings for: research; clinical applications; personal fitness; and club-based fitness. But it looks like there is an explosion of competition at CES.

polar-ft80 Since I suffered a heart attack in 2006, I’ve been thinking about buying a heart rate monitor (the meds now keep my heart rate artificially low). I’ve been thinking about purchasing a Polar FT80. It’s probably feature overkill, but the device and user experience is beautiful. I am curious about the integration to Polar Personal Trainer supports the software+services development and business models (it’s too bad that Polar hasn’t completely opened their API to support other applications like TrailRunner).

fitbit-inhand Fitbit, which launched at the TechCrunch50, was the category winner at CES. They are a wellness tracker. It tracks data about a persons activities including calories burned, sleep quality, and distance travelled (the calories burned and sleep quality must be interpreted numbers). It’s a great concept, that is similar to BodyMedia’s GoWear science of tracking your galvanic skin response, acceleration, skin temperature and heat flux.

It’s the data, stupid

There is a lot of focus on big when it comes to health care. HealthVault and Google Health are big solutions from multi-billion dollar companies. (Wow, I think the Polar RT80 connects to HealthVault, it’s not explicitly listed but I’m hoping it works). However, I’m wondering if there is a need to focus on individuals. The focus on individuals and individual responsibility can be seen with the appointment of Dr. Sanjay Gupta as the leading candidate for the Surgeon General. What better than a physician with broadcast experience to reach out to promote health and prevent disease for the American people.

With the development of devices like the GoWear, the FitBit and the Nike+Plus, it is possible for consumers to start collecting their own bio-signs. And begin monitoring, analyzing and altering their behaviour. Like the accelerometers have proven with innovative  iPhone interfaces (think UrbanSpoon read about accessing the GPS and accelerometer APIs),  the importance is in the sensors and the data. The Canary Foundation (thanks WIRED) uses simple tests and data to identify cancer at it’s earliest stages. I wonder if the tools around heart rate, metabolism, sleep combined with social networking can be used to change behaviour and alter the courses for obesity, diabetes, heart and blood vessel disease.

What other automated data collection could your personal healthcare devices collect? How could it be used to improve your quality of life? Or reduce your risk of disease?