Smart connectivity though the IoTs, Big Data crunching and the whole concept of Lifelogging have been around for quite some time now. While the Internet of Things was mainly involved in making devices more connected to each other, it can actually be applied to the Quantified Self movement too.
Sensors are coming in a gamut of sizes and form factors, and this is in turn facilitating the Internet of Things to enable tracking a wider array of phenomena and parameters. I’ve already spoken about how QS and IOT can work hand in hand, but in this article I take a look at the current market scenario in terms of the products available to the masses. I discuss the unorthodox tracking equipment out there, and I try and frame a correlation between the Quantified Self movement and the Internet of Things!
EASING INTO THE BASICS: IOT REVISITED
The Internet Of Things is something that we’ve been hearing about and discussing for quite some time now. IOT devices and bases are constantly on the rise, and driving forces in this regard include sensor technology gaining more muscle power and electronic components in general becoming cheaper and more easily accessible.
In fact, here’s one of my favourite statistics in this regard: A forecast regarding the number of IOT bases that have been installed, and how the situation might be up to 2020. The consumer sector is the more important one out here, and it is estimated that a total of 13,172.5 million units would be installed in the consumer sector by 2020!
Now let’s bring the million dollar question in this context: How can the IOT aid the Quantified Self movement?
The answer is quite simple really. Most activity trackers and fitness bands come in a wearable form factor. While the advantage would be that since the device is always on the user, the data is recorded directly and the scope of errors involved in recording the parameters would be reduced.
However, this also brings about the concept of whether the wearable is obtrusive for the user – if the wearable brings about discomfort to the user, or hinders the user from performing other tasks, chances are that the user will lose interest and stop wearing the tracker altogether. Personally, I’ve seen quite a few people who’ve stopped wearing trackers once the band begins to wear out.
All these points make the presence of IOT more relevant in the field of QS.
BRIDGING TWO CONCEPTS: QS AND IOT
The primary aim of the Quantified Self movement is not quite different from the objective of the Internet of Things. The key principle is data collection, and to make every thing – be it a person, or a device – an open platform with an open API. Three major factors involved in this ecosystem include Sensors, Data, and Processing (by Apps).
The above diagram is a flowchart of the events occurring in Lifelogging, and I find key resemblances between this and the flowchart of the Internet of Things as well. A lot of devices have been made keeping both the concepts in mind, and I’ll be talking about these devices shortly.
IOT DEVICES IN QS
HOME AUTOMATION / MONITORING
Tracking is done best when the subject is at his/her natural best, and what better place for this than at home? Quite a few IOT devices have already been designed for home automation and monitoring. Primary of these is the Nest system by Google, which incorporates smoke detectors, fire alarms and thermostat systems in a nifty package. Convenient, and compact, this is quite possibly the future of IOT systems out there.
Move away from simple control systems, and you’ll find quite a few trackers and meters out there. Devices like the Smart Sync Meters, the Nuon eManager, AT&T Digital Life and Transparent Samsung Smart are devices which track the energy consumption and electricity usage in a home. These devices are connected to the cloud via dedicated apps, so this brings about quantification in the process of tracking the energy usage.
Tracking by itself is a phenomenon that can be applied to objects and people alike. For objects, we have NFC and RFID tags which can be used to detect objects.
But here’s something even more interesting. GPS can also be added to the equation, which can enable parents to keep track of their children and pets while they’re away. Again, this brings to point the relevance of positioning systems out there, and we believe that these might be more relevant in the time to come.
Coming down to the key aspect of this entire article: health and fitness trackers are most popular as wearables, but the Internet of Things might bring about a few changes in this scenario. We’ve already seen a plethora of fitness bands and smart watches enabled to track parameters such as heart rate statistics and sleep patterns, but there are many more uses.
Take for example the Spiroscout Inhaler Tracker. A tracking device which can be mounted on asthma inhalers, it keeps track of the time and location of the inhaler’s usage. This is especially important for asthma patients who need to constantly monitor their usage trends, send the results to specialists and accordingly make changes in their lifestyles.
Talk about smart scales, and the Withings Smart Scale instantly comes to mind. A weighing scale capable of measuring weight, BMI, fat mass, heart rate and even the air quality and room temperature, the Smart Scale is a prime example of how Lifelogging can be applied to non wearable devices as well.
Other devices in this regard include the Fitbit Aria, the Cooey Smart Scale and the QardioBase Smart Scale. All these devices come in similar form factors, but make one thing very evident: IOT can be applied to tracking as well.
Non wearable sleep trackers – according to me – are much more efficient in tracking sleep patterns than the wearable devices. I’ve already discussed sleep tracking extensively in my article on it, and I’ve even spoken about the terminologies in the concept.
Beddit is a sleep tracker which takes unobtrusive trackers to a whole new level. It has a tiny tracking device which when placed in the bed makes the bed a sensing surface. Not only does it measure the sleep cycles and sleep patterns of the user, it also measures heart rate and respiration.
Zeo, Withings Aura and Lark are other sleep trackers, but IOT tracker? The champ is Beddit.
BONUS: TRACK EVERYTHING!
An organisation called Sen.se has made the Mother monitor system: A sensor called a Cookie can be affixed to almost anything, to record and monitor temperature variations or presence of the object or person they’re near to.
All this information comes to the user in the form of a sleek application. Personally, I really found their modus operandi regarding sensor technology quite interesting, and devices like these, when incorporated into the Internet of Things, would give the Quantified Self movement a huge boost.
When the Internet of Things combines with the Quantified Self movement, some key advantages can be easily seen:
4. Collaboration between developers, designers and the target audience.
5. Prevention of chronic conditions.
I believe that when these two concepts merge together, a delicate and powerful ecosystem will be developed which ensures that information that is generated is instantly recorded. Quite possibly, the smartphone as the middleman might be bypassed, to bring about more continuity in the whole arena of tracking, lifelogging and the Quantified Self movement!