I love my Apple Watch. The ability to track my exercise, heart rate, activity levels, and sleep has enabled a real awareness of how my physical and mental health changes over time. The ability to track personal health data over long time periods outside of laboratories is one of the most exciting developments of the last decade. I believe this data will usher in a new era of personalized, precision health which just wasn’t possible in the past. At Arcascope, we are at the forefront of developing algorithms to turn the data collected by wearable devices into insights that improve people’s lives.
With that being said, the current state of things just isn’t all that satisfying when you think about what’s being left on the table. So much of the data being collected is uninterpretable. Knowing my current heart rate is cool, but what can I do with that information? The part of this that bothers me the most is that so much of this data is focused on the past.
Here is a screenshot from Apple Health showing my sleep over the last month. You can see that I had some wake periods at 3 am at the beginning of the month. But how does this information really help me?
Sleep tracking in particular reminds me of a weather app that can only tell you yesterday’s weather. Clearly, a weather prediction service that could only tell you the weather from 24 hours ago wouldn’t do well against the Doppler radar. It is useful to be able to say exactly how hot it was yesterday, and interesting to know how that compares to years past, but I really want to know if I should bring an umbrella with me when I leave the house.
I can tell that I didn’t sleep well last night from the fact that I am feeling tired. Having a device to quantify exactly how poorly I slept can be useful for tracking long-term trends, but it isn’t all that useful on a day-to-day basis.
Another snapshot from my Apple Health data. Doesn’t this remind you of a weather app pointing out how this weather’s month compares to historical trends? What about today? Or how about tomorrow?
Okay, enough of the weather prediction analogy. I’ve already pushed that analogy further than I should. First, unlike the weather, we actually have control over our behavior, and what we are doing now will change the forecast for our physiology tomorrow. Also, these variables are much more predictable than weather.
The technology we have developed at Arcascope can answer questions like:
- What separates the days where I am at my best, from the ones where I am struggling?
- How can I alter my behavior now so that I will sleep better tonight?
- When is it best for me to stop drinking coffee for the day?
- When will it be best for me to study, exercise, eat and relax?
- When is the best time to take my medication to minimize side effects?
- When should I avoid high stakes activities because my chances of making a mistake are highest?
We believe this is the future of personalized health tracking. We also think it’s a heck of a lot more exciting than looking back at yesterday.