How Technology is Driving the New Age of the Quantified Self

Businesses have long had access to data that gets mined, analyzed, and transformed into information that is used to optimize operations, cut costs, and chart the best strategy for business success. In today’s world, each individual is a mini-corporation gathering data, measuring inputs and outputs, and looking for insights to better lead their life. The idea of a ‘quantified self’ has continued to gain attention, both from consumers and from the startups looking to equip them with self-monitoring tools to make it easier than ever to gain insights about their mental and physical health, and ultimately their happiness.

One such startup is Moscow, Russia-based Inflow, which lets users track their emotions through its mobile app and correlate them with activities and the people around them, data which in turn is used to provide tips to lift their spirits whenever they need a boost. They can also form a circle of close friends and family to share their moods or to find out if someone needs to be supported. Founder Bayram Annakov spoke with BetaKit about how his own experiment of tracking his mood led to insights which gave him the confidence to quit his job to start the company.

“I think that it’s about being more aware of your emotions and being able to understand yourself,” said Annakov in an interview. “Eventually it led to great insights that let me quit the company I was working for…and found my own company. It gave me a lot of insights that made me want to share this technique with others.”

Happiness isn’t the only thing apps want to help people track. Given that 35 percent of U.S citizens meet the obesity criteria with the number expected to jump to nearly half by 2030 if nothing changes, the influx and craze of wearable fitness technology like Nike’s FuelBand and fitbit comes as no surprise. The Fuelband, with its activity currency of sorts dubbed NikeFuel, helps its users set goals and measure their day-to-day activity, including the ability to monitor calories burned, steps taken and more. Based on their activity users receive rewards and recognition, with the added ability to share their accomplishments with their social networks. Fitbit’s fitness-tracking device, also looking to release their wristband named flex this spring, currently provides a wireless activity tracker, a Wifi-enabled smart scale, and mobile apps that lets its users earn badges based on their activities to keep them on track with their goals.

There are also a growing number of mobile apps that look to provide their own spin on helping users better manage their health and nutrition. In the past year, BetaKit has covered more than a handful, including apps like Toronto-based Venio, which lets users visualize their dietary intake by accessing a nutritional breakdown of each meal. Another app which launched just in time to help people tackle their New Year’s fitness resolutions is PumpUp, a personal workout assistant that creates and adjusts custom workouts based on an individual’s goals, equipment, and time.

When individuals are not worrying about their weight, another big concern is sleep, with 30-40 percent of adults reporting symptoms of insomnia in a given year. One startup looking to shake people out of waking up tired thanks in part to their alarm clocks is Sleep Cycle. Using the iPhone app, users select a 30 minute window for a wake up call, and place their phone beside them. Using the iPhone’s accelerometer, the app monitors users’ movements to figure out which sleep cycle they are in, waking them while they’re in the lightest phase. Users can also track their activity just before going to bed and receive stats on their sleep quality, length of sleep, and a track record of their good and not so great mornings.

But beyond happiness, fitness, and sleep, the trend of quantifying and measuring one’s self even extends to the realm of an individual’s thoughts and their memory. Looking to help people see inside their own mind, improve their mental fitness, and interact with their smartphones using only their thoughts, Interaxon’s Muse Headband aims to measure brainwaves to give users insight on their concentration and brain activity. And for people who may feel that life is passing by too quickly, Swedish startup Memoto has an answer in its tiny wearable camera that takes a photo every 30 seconds when it’s clipped on and stores them on the cloud, letting users “lifelog” and keep a constant diary of their day.

“We realized that a large part of our lives are missing from our memories and many fantastic and special moments become blurred throughout, and we believe that it’s a reason many of us feel life is rushing by and is way too short. So we wanted to find a way to capture more of life and enjoy the present as it happens,” said Memoto co-founder Oskar Kalmaru in a previous interview with BetaKit.

Just as how data now powers big data insights and business intelligence for corporations, there seems to be no stopping the trend of ‘self-intelligence.’ With the end goal of quantifying life most often being to improve quality of life, it will be interesting to see how companies and consumers tangibly go about doing just that.

Humayun Khan

Humayun Khan

Humayun Khan is a Senior Writer and Analyst at BetaKit. A marketing graduate with honors, Humayun's work experience spans the fields of consumer behaviour with noted contributions in an academic paper published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology and market research consulting having coordinated projects for a major financial services client at Decode Inc. More recently he was involved in business strategy as a Business Analyst for an equipment rental outlet and prior in the National Marketing Department at Ernst & Young LLP. He is passionate about emerging and disrupting technology and its ability to transform and create entirely new industries.

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