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IoT and health - by Travis Witteveen / IdO

To your health – with the IoT

A  few months back, I shared my experience with the brave new world of IoT home automation, something I called the Irritant of Things. In the last couple of weeks, I have moved from house to health, as I’ve experimented with IoT devices centering on personal health.

These devices are making my physical life more transparent and collecting relevant data on how I live my life and how healthy I am – or not. This data falls into six primary categories:

  1. Sleep – When I fall asleep and wake up, how many times I wake up, the amount of time in light, rem and deep sleep.
  2. Weight – in Kilo’s, body fat %, body water %, BMI
  3. Heart – resting heart rate, blood pressure, pulse wave velocity
  4. Exercise – amount of time, steps, flights of stairs, calories burned
  5. Eating habits – water I drink, calories I consume
  6. Body temperature

In order to get all this information about myself, I had to buy some technology:

ManufacturerName of ProductWhat it measures
(pronounced why things)
Body Cardio ScaleWeight, % body fat, % water, BMI, Pulse,
Pulse wave velocity
WithingsBlood Pressure MonitorPulse, Systolic & Diastolic pressure.
WithingsThermoBody temperature
JawboneUP3Steps, Exercise Duration, Calories burned
(Active, Resting, Total), Distance (estimated)
AppleWatchPulse, Activity Type, Steps, Distance (via phone),
stairs climbed (via phone)
AppleiPhoneSteps, stairs, distance, pulse

Getting a body of data

As you can see there are some overlapping features, but each individual device brings specifics that the others do not provide. Having multiple data points also helps me to understand and verify the data collected. To view the information, I used my Apple Health kit as well as the device-specific apps.

It might sound overwhelming, but it’s actually extremely easy. Connecting the devices, getting them to collect the data (scale, blood pressure monitor and thermostat) and recognize the various family members in my house took only a few minutes per device.

Artificial intelligence and real advice

So now I have all this info and for the last two weeks, I actually see my health improving. The artificial intelligent coaches which are incorporated into many of the apps are giving me personalized suggestions (try to go to bed at the same time each night, reduce your salt intake, taking another 5,000 steps per day will get you closer to your goals, etc.). Because I can easily see how healthy/unhealthy I am behaving, these devices are already getting me to live a better life. I’m curious if I will continue to use these things for weeks, months, or years to come …  So far, I’m pretty excited about the technology and it’s been much more of a positive experience than automating my home.

How healthy is having all this data?

While discussing my experience with a colleague, we talked about the value of this body of information. Then the conversation topic expanded to the value to all of our information – especially when we consider all the new “connected” devices entering our households or that we come in contact with every day. The amount of information we have at our fingertips is enormous, the amount of information being collected about us is even bigger. This creates an unanswered question: If information is so valuable, how do I as an individual profit from providing it?

Moving from prevention to management

As individuals, we spend a lot of time thinking about how to prevent others from getting our private information (and securing our privacy). If we believe information is valuable, we should actually think about how to best manage this information; to go beyond just preventing it leaking out but making the steps which will allow us to use our personal information as a de facto currency.

For example: If I provide you this information, you will give me xxx…

And yes, the first health insurance companies are already offering discounts in combination with fitness tracking information.

But this is just the start, what would happen if:

  • Web-sites provide more information and services if you allow advertisements.
  • E-tailers provide discounts if you allow them to track your browsing habits.
  • Medical information from your device or private cloud can be shared with doctors or service providers of your choice.
  • Your geolocation could be used by certain types of service providers.

The opportunities are endless and virtually untapped. At Avira we already have a browser, a digital vault, an identity manager, a VPN, an app control, a do-not-track solution, a cache and history cleaner, and a safe-search service, so we could evolve our prevention techniques to providing management control that goes beyond just “blocking”. We can make this very vague “personal information” element into something which our users can actively manage and control – if and when they see the benefits to this value proposition.

Empowering our users to do more would be just the first step in transitioning information security from the current blocking mindset to one of enablement. I’m looking forward to the challenges and the opportunities of this transition.

This post is also available in: FrenchItalian

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