HIT – Health Internet of Things

Here is a guest post by futurist Walter de Brouwer:

We want our health to become a number. That is one of the reasons why we seem to be
at the beginning of a real Cambrian Explosion of ‘Health Internet Things’ and tracking
gadgets. Everything in our bathroom or pharmacy will soon have a display and a WUSB
or Bluetooth connection because all of these displays will want to connect, thereby
producing a real-time, ever-changing picture of our ambient health.
The time seems right to produce a ‘periodic table’ of all the gadgets still to be invented.
Let me suggest the first 20.
1. Teeth. Toothbrushes that will measure fluoride, remember cavities and discoloration, and notify you of bad breath.
2. Eyes. Glasses that will monitor your eyesight and advise correction.
3. Hair. Combs that will screen the follicles, report on dandruff density, scan for fungus or lice, and count the hairs (hair loss).
4. Bottom. Toilets that will test excrements, both liquid and solid. Feces will be graded following the Bristol Stool scale.
5. Chest. Airport scanners that will broadcast their results to your phone.
6. Body. Clothes that will be intelligent because the fibers will compute, and that will visualize your body language.
7. Underbelly. A new field of underwearables that will integrate markers for early detection of cancers or other anomalies.
8. Forearms. Shirts that will screen the microbiome on your forearms (40x more than our own cells).
9. Neck. Collars that will chemically analyse your sweat.
10. Ear. Earphones that will measure your hearing and analyze the emotional level of people you are listening to (sound analysis already allows that!), interesting for total communication (i.e. beyond words and including body language).
11. Heart. Pacemakers and stents that will broadcast data to the cardiologist plus ECG
12. Nose. Tissues that will examine snot and mucus when you blow your nose.
13. Chin. Razors that will plot the surface of the skin looking for acne.
14. Lips. Balm that will scan for cold sores.
15. Tongue. Tongue scrapers that will screen salivary microbes (the oral microbiome).
16. Back. Chairs that will plot your posture and broadcast data for your spine.
17. Nails. Nail cutters that will determine the quality of your nails and count the ridges.
18. Feet. Step counters (FITBIT).
19. Pulse. Heart rate monitors (GARMIN).
20. Brain. Headsets that will measure electrical activity in the form of alpha, beta, delta and theta waves (Emotiv’s EPOC).
Thanks Walter!
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7 Responses to HIT – Health Internet of Things

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  2. Matthew Cornell says:

    Excellent post, Walter. I’ve been thinking that many devices should be instrumented, which I need to write up. Beyond the important body-related ones you’ve dreamed up, we can get even more creative. The general idea is that our personal artifacts know something about us, and we need to teach them through technology like WUSB about how to communicate in a universal lingua franca of self-tracking. The simplest things might have useful stories to tell, such as a water bottle that knows my drinking behavior. Exciting stuff!

    Re: #5 (Airport scanners that broadcast results): The TSA in the USA actually providing something of value with their invasiveness? Wow!

    P.S. Rather than calling it a periodic table, which uses rows and columns to show important relationships and commonalities, I might call your diagram an “instrumented body map” or something similar.

  3. What I liked about the real periodic table is the predictive behavior it had. It would be cool to predict everything that could be predicted :-)

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  5. Theodore Wheeland says:

    Enjoyed this very much in the spirit of “Imagination is [at least as] important [as] knowledge.” You gave me an idea on a similar note to this personal informatic (standard) toolkit. Before we invent a toothbrush that measures fluoride, remembers cavities, discoloration, and notifies one of bad breath; we outta have a toothbrush that tells us if we brushed our teeth or not and for how long. But wait, you say, that toothbrush already exists! Indeed it, the Oral-B Triumph, does exist and it can be yours for only $180… only. Give me a break! Roughly 2 billion of our neighbors on earth live off less than a dollar a day, and you’re gonna sell me a $180 toothbrush. Makes me sick. As utterly boring as toothbrushes might be (sadly they’re the rocket ships of dentistry), two thirds of us on earth use a tooth brush and it’s a $5 billion market. Say what!

    SO what does all this non-sense have to do with self-quantification?! Well the really awesome thing about getting a bunch of smart, future-minded hackers together is that we can open-source a 5 dollar tooth brush that measures when you brush your teeth and for how long you do it. We can also design verified data versions (that is: “Timmmy, did you actually brush your teeth or did you just game the tooth brush?”) and un-verified data versions (ya know for when you’re a grown up who has no interest in cheating himself).

    I can already imagine a disruptive open-source system. Instead of an opulent battery powered Rolls Royce (which work no better folks!), how about a cheap web cam with enough resolution for facial recognition and enough processing power to recognize a human brushing his or her teeth. That would be the verified data design. The unverified data design would be a cheap $1 toothbrush — yes one dollar folks — with a little digital switch glued on. Think about when you press a calculator button the two pieces of metal contact and presto! data is made. This tooth brush would work like this and it would have a 50cent USB key built in (how much data does that buy you these days? 50 megabytes?). The USB key could be built into the tooth brush itself or into the non-charging base station.

    I’m getting at two things.

    One. Determining how much flouride, discoloration, etc on your teeth is far less important than brushing your teeth three times a day. Since self-tracking is a powerful motivation tool, we should be encouraging its rapid, mass adoption in this use case. This will require innovation at the product level. Innovation that is wise to map, expect, incentivize, encourage, and ultimately celebrate.

    Two. AS the QS movement moves forward there will always be a tension between incentivising innovation with profit from (copyright, intellectual property law, subscription models, etc) AND disrupting profit-making when it’s overwhelmingly in the public good. Think Microsoft and Open-Source. Windows and Linux. Microsoft’s latest and LAMP. Internet Explorer and Mozilla. It doesn’t make sense for a self-tracking toothbrush to cost $180 when it has the potential to save the world economy unknown (but estimatable) amounts of money in dental care.

    QS should work to create roadmaps like this of expected innovation highlighting specific places where a specific product should be open-sourced. QS could work as an organization to fund open-source initiatives because often times it will makes sense to pay programmers involved.

    In summary, let’s make a disruptive QS toothbrush and let’s continue to publish technological roadmaps of expected QS innovation finding funding for projects especially in the public interest.

    Thanks for reading my plea and please let me know how I can help.

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