The Quantified Self and Its Potential Benefits

The Quantified Self is a trend that involves thorough tracking of health metrics in real time. Michael Omidi looks at whether this poses any benefits to overall health or if it is an extension of obsession. 

Personal monitoring devices have come a long way from the simple pedometer that people used to track how many steps they took in a day. Medical monitoring devices have gone from large, clunky objects only available in medical offices to accessories that can be worn and paired with any outfit. This has been leading to the trend of the Quantified Self, and measuring all of your health metrics in real time. 

Medical data such as sensors that track physiological information ranging from heat flux to the electrical conductivity and temperature of your skin to motion can all be collected by personal devices. These inventions pose an important question, however: Now that we have all of this data, what are we supposed to do with it?

At South By Southwest experts and designers have attempted to answer this question. In the case of BodyMedia, for example, their wearable body monitoring-systems collect data, with users uploading that data online where it is analyzed using the parameters the users pre-set. The eventual goal is to make monitoring these changes intuitive and easy for consumers. 

As they currently exist, consumers are gaining more benefits not from the devices themselves but from the online communities that are associated with them, which allow them to gain encouragement and incite through sharing their metrics with others. 

Whether or not people actually want this amount of data is currently up for debate, a studies suggest that too much data may be more intimidating than encouraging; studies conducted among those attempting to lose weight found that people were often overwhelmed by the task of calorie counting and calculating, leading dieters to lose interest in losing weight all together. 

Ideally, these new devices and the software that they are associated with could help those suffering from diabetes, obesity, sleep disorders, and other types of chronic diseases monitor important metrics, but they rely on the response of the public to truly be effective. Only time will tell if people want an influx in health data and if they will truly utilize it. 

By Michael Omidi

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