Tag Archives: sms
“There was nothing in my life pushing me to to have these more intimate relationships, the few people I actually care about.”
When Akshay Patil was putting together the guest list for his wedding he realized that it had been a long time since he’d spoken with some of the the people he was inviting. Even with his good friends, he surprised by his lack of communication, his inability to stay connected. As anyone faced with this realization he decided to try and change, but the realities of life quickly crept back and as they say, old habits die hard. When he left his last job and began looking for projects to work on, this troubling area of his life crept back to the fore. Maybe there was something he could do better track and change his communication and relationships. Using his development skills, and the ability to gather data from his Android phone, he decided to build a system that helped him stay in touch with the people that mattered most to him. In this talk, presented at the New York QS meetup group, Akshay talks about what’s he’s learned from using this app, including when it fails.
Cedric Yau trains in kung fu 12 hours a week. He wanted to track his his activity and energy levels, so he created a text-messaging service called Well+Tuner, where he also records notes for how he feels on different days. He learned how to time his food intake and 50 daily supplements for maximum energy, correlated his dating success with his mood, and discovered which exercises were most helpful for healing from an injury. A great self-experimentation story! (Filmed at the June 2011 New York Show&Tell meetup)
Tim van den Dool takes care of his older parents, and has created a system to help caregivers like himself. His ongoing project is called Livind, for Assisted Daily Living. The system monitors elderly people in a non-invasive way to watch for accidents or other irregular things. If something happens, caregivers are remotely notified trough SMS or a beeper. (Filmed at the Quantified Self Show&Tell meetup in Amsterdam.)
Just a quick follow up to the last post about Tweet What You Eat, inspired again by Flowing Data and by a telling anecdote from a recent health conference, where I concluded that ubiquitous self-tracking is coming, but perhaps not from the direction expected by many health professionals.
At the conference I met the CEO of health informatics company who had a seemingly clever idea about how to collect patient data, track compliance with medical recommendations (prescriptions, glucose monitoring, etc.), and provide reminders to patients and reports to their doctors. His name is Kent Dicks, and the company is called MedApps. Dicks is smart and well informed, and is working hard to make ubiquitous tracking work.
MedApps uses early generation wireless, where the connectivity costs are cheap and the bandwidth meager. The business idea was the create a general device, basically a wireless transmitter, that would transfer data over the cellular networks, and then arm this devices with a bunch of different customized dongles to connect to all different types of measurement tools: scale, glucose monitor, pedometer, cardiac monitor, etc. Owning a general, proprietary solution to an admittedly messy problem justifies a multi-hundred dollar price tag. After all, this is meant to be a medical system, approved by the FDA and paid for by the great mother of health care business plans: insurance reimbursements. Patients would comply with self-tracking because they wanted to cooperate with the regimen given to them by their doctors. If added motivation was needed, they could be influenced by insurance discounts, or even paycheck bonuses or penalties in the context of corporate “wellness” programs.
I long for a general solution to the data collection problem, but this approach strikes me as somewhat wrong headed. It is serving the labyrinthine business system, rather than the more straightforward and obvious needs of people. (People who are not necessarily “patients.”) Meanwhile, companies like Zume Life are just having people read their data into a digital recorder and transcribing the reports, skilled users like Nathan Yau are writing Twitter bots, and small scale entrepreneurs like Alex Rossi are creating Web based services like Tweet What You Eat that collect reports via SMS. Data is beginning to flow through and around the highly disorganized and loosely connected networks that already exist, and as this flow increases I wonder if the more fully engineered and FDA approved systems will simply become irrelevant. And the bigger theme is also relevant. Either self-tracking will be understood as a good thing, and many people will want to do it, or it will not be so understood, and all the inducements in the world will probably not be enough to motivate them.
To get a sense of how low the threshold is for programmers to build a
simple system to gather personal data, take a look at Nathan’s recent
post on Flowing Data about how to make your own Twitter bot. Also read
the comments. When I did, I thought: “Pioneering users can make popular programs… This problem is on the way to being solved… ”