Personal Collection — The Era of Self-Tracking
Over the past few years a new trend has begun to take hold in consumer electronics. It had been around forever in the form of pedometers and other basic health gear like pulse monitors, but recently the innovation that has come to much of mainstream technology as of late has now made the jump to fitness and life tracking tech. I’m of course talking about many of the health-themed wearables like Fitbit, Jawbone and Nike’s Fuelband. I personally don’t own any of these devices but with the inclusion of the M7 coprocessor in the iPhone 5s and some positively brilliant new applications, I’ve been able to get a glimpse of what a fully-connected lifestyle could be like.
Let’s start with the basic stuff. The iPhone 5s tracks how many steps I take by default, it only needs an app to tap into that data for it to become useful. There are a few apps that have been updated to do this like Moves but I choose to use Fitbit. The Fitbit app taps directly into the M7 processor and in doing so, transforms your 5s into the equivalent of a basic Fitbit device. Throw in tracking how far you walk in miles, how many calories you burn and the ability to input your caloric intake and you’ve got one fully-featured tracking app.
The next thing I track in my life is my sleep. I use the Sleep Cycle alarm clock app not only to help me wake up a little easier, but to keep track of how much I’m sleeping and how good that sleep is. Sleep Cycle uses the accelerometer in your iPhone to detect the subtle movements you make while in bed and determines how awake or deeply asleep you are. In my experience it works pretty well and while I still have trouble getting up in the morning regardless, the app does offer up some interesting data. Every night is formatted into a graph which shows when you were in lighter and deeper stages of sleep. It’s sort of fascinating, and once you have enough nights logged you can begin to really see the patterns in your weekly sleep cycle.
The third app that I use to track my life is one I only just found late last week. It’s an app called Reporter and it allows you to track almost any aspect of your life that you want. The app functions by pinging you every hour or two in your day and giving you a short servey about what you’re thinking about, how you’re feeling, where you are, and who you’re with. You’re also able to create questions of your own and choose what kind of answer you’d like to be able to input for it. Be it a note, a tag, a multiple choice answer or a number, all work brilliantly and it’s easy to set up different questions for aspects of your life that you’d like to see a little deeper into. For me that was adding a couple questions like “Were you grumpy today?” or “Did you do anything creative today?” Both questions that help me check in on things that I’m trying to monitor or get better with in my life.
Combine all three of these apps and all in all I track the number of steps I take, the distance I walk in miles, the calories I burn, the calories I take in, how much sleep I got, how good that sleep was, what Im thinking about throughout the day, what I’m doing throughout the day, where I am throughout the day, who I was with throughout the day, what my mood was throughout the day, what I learned in a given day, how many meals I ate, if I did anything creative, if I was grumpy, and whether or not my day was ‘In my opinion’ a good one.
That, simply put, is a lot of data on any given day.
Currently I have to put a little bit of time into logging some of these details. That makes this kind of lifestyle not for everyone as not all people have the time or the motivation to be logging what they eat, how they feel and other aspects of their day in their phones every hour or two. For me, it’s an interesting oppurtunity not only to get some cool data to ponder, but also to look at my daily life in an overview and see what I can improve on. Was I grumpy this morning? Well did I eat breakfast or get enough sleep the night before? Oh, well then maybe I should go to bed a little earlier and then get up early enough to grab a bite to eat before rushing out the door in the future. There’s no saying I’ll actually do that of course, but the ability to be able to knit all these details together and see one’s life laid out like this is intriguing and usefull in my eyes. I’m excited to see where this kind of technology goes in the next couple years, and what kinds of things we humans will end up tracking about ourselves once the process gets more automated and less user-dependant.
Here’s to the future ~M
This was a crosspost from my personal blog. If you dug my writing and want to see more, feel free to check it out. /fin.