This post was written by Deniz Temelli, Business Analyst at TechAlliance
Every holiday season it seems everyone is on the lookout for the next big gadget, and this year is no exception. In the last few weeks, while I’ve been surfing my daily news sites, I’ve noticed many of them have been reporting on the new trend of health and wellness apps and electronics.
Technology has always been used in health care with new advances helping to improve all aspects of the medical field. But with the widespread use of smart phones and the interconnectivity of all of our devices, it’s no surprise that there is a growing number of consumer-focused health apps.
At first, these products were simple devices that made tracking certain things easier. For example, if you were trying to lose weight, you may have been advised to keep a food journal where you could write down all the food you ate that day or to keep track of how much running or walking you did that week. Technology helped to make the process of recording this data easier through calorie counting apps and pedometers.
This technology continued to advance as these types of tracking apps got more and more complicated as more and more data was being recorded. For diabetics, there are multiple apps that combine the exercise and diet trackers mentioned above with other health data obtained from glucose monitors, blood pressure cuffs and heart rate monitors.
The idea behind all of this data is that if you have a way of tracking your progress towards (or away from) goals, then it would motivate you to change your behaviours and habits. Although this may seem logical, I think there is a big problem with having too much data, especially if you don’t know what it means or what to do with it.
The analytics industry has become huge as businesses in all sectors look to analytics to help them gain more insight from their data. Even among individuals, the Quanitifed Self movement is gaining momentum. This is a meeting place for people who have turned to data tracking and analysis in order to better themselves and share their insights and experiences.
But for average consumers, with varying backgrounds, education and comfort with technology, this can be very difficult. It can be very easy for them to download these apps and try them for a few days and then forget all about them.
With that being said, the new wave of health gadgets seems to be moving into a new phase within the larger trend of individual data tracking. Although the apps themselves are quite advanced, their user interfaces are becoming simpler. They still track large amounts of data, but instead of the output being graphs and charts, the apps have complicated algorithms that answer the question of ‘so what?’
For diabetics who record their daily blood glucose levels along with their exercise and caloric intake, what should they be doing to improve their health? One device, which has gotten a lot of attention lately, is the Larklife Band, which records a lot of the data mentioned above but also sends push notifications to your phone to let you know when you should have a snack or go for a walk.
I am very excited to see how these apps develop as their algorithms are refined and expanded to improve the recommendations that come out of them. There is always the question of clinical validity, but for a wellness app where you’re just trying to be more active or eat better, that may not be a priority.
And as the recommendations start improving and begin to encompass all aspects of our daily lives, how close will we get to the point where our phones will make all our decisions for us?