Since I recently started testing out the Bodymedia armband I’ve also looked into other devices and the associated data and visualizations they provide. It got me thinking that as we start to incorporate several of these personal tracking devices and associated services into our lives, an opportunity to create a single dashboard will present itself. It’s not going to be efficient to have to visit multiple sites and manually stitch all the data together to provide a full picture of our on-going health initiatives. The opportunity for someone to aggregate this data in a simple way to paint the complete picture will become a very apparent and important missing link.
Some devices track multiple activities such as exercise and sleep such as Bodymedia and Fitbit, while others focus simply on one such as the Zeo which only tracks sleep and provides additional tracking metrics not available with the Fitbit or Bodymedia devices. Then there are other single minded devices and tracking services like Runkeeper and Nike+ for working out and the Withings scale and blood pressure monitor and many others that we would want incorporated into a complete tracking system (see list of items here). Beyond these devices there are plenty of other data sources that we would want to import from to provide more correlations for a complete health picture. Furthermore, there are things such as vitamin supplements, medicines, medical history and even additional genome analytics such as 23andme.com that would add much needed context to the data collected for relevancy over time. For example if you’re taking blood pressure medication or a sleeping aid you’d want that context along with your sleep patterns and blood pressure readings. It’s clear that there are many data points that need to be sewn together in a single service to help create a holistic picture of our health makeup.
Mint.com set the bar when it came to tackling the very difficult aspect of connecting all of our financial footprints from bank accounts, to credit cards, to home loans, and investment accounts to provide a very clear and nearly real-time financial picture. I believe the same opportunity to do this with personal tracking devices, related services, and other contextual and historic data will present itself to create a real-time personal health picture. Building such a service will require the co-operation of existing device makers and their cloud data services to either open up or create API’s that can be integrated. I would imagine though that this wouldn’t be a very difficult barrier to convince support since it will be in the device maker’s best interest to provide the ability to connect their data to such a service as an added value for consumers. It would also provide a competitive distinction over other companies that don’t.
I’m extremely bullish on the ability for these devices and services to penetrate the mainstream over the next few years as the advantages become clear for using them. They provide great motivation for being able to quantify and improve our health and lives overall and with the breadth of devices and data collected an immediate need will present itself to make sense of all the information. Clearly the opportunity for a startup (or several) will emerge from this need and I’ll be the first in line to try them out. Here’s hoping that this blog post helps fuel them.