QS LA Confidential (Part Two)

M: I guess the topic of health is universal and more straightforward: you need to get rid of pain by eating healthy, working out more, taking your meds or improving your sleep. Health is more common to track nowadays (my mom has high blood pressure, so she checks it at least twice a day and writes down results in her paper notebook).
Eric: Tracking your health and body metrics is an interesting topic. At the QS conference in May, David Asprey (biohacker and author of Bullet Proof Executive – http://www.bulletproofexec.com/) gave a great talk on self tracking and lab testing. People are starting to go to independent labs directly for tests they would normally have done through a doctor. These labs will take blood samples, check for vitamin deficiencies, and even design special diets based on what you need. Another interesting company is 23andMe (http://23andme.com). It does personal genome sequencing by taking a saliva sample and gives a detailed diagnosis on health risks and genetic traits.
M: Why don’t doctors do that during annual physicals? Don’t people trust their doctors or can’t afford medical services and hence prefer a DIY version?
Eric: Some doctors are more progressive and open to sharing more data with their patients, and other more traditional ones aren’t there yet. People are definitely taking power into their own hands in terms of health and well being. As costs come down and people become more interested in taking charge of their own health I think the DIY trend will continue.
M: But self-tracking is more health focused than other things. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a comprehensive app that tells it all…
Eric: Many self trackers focus on monitoring health, mood and stress. But there are even gadgets (NeuroSky) and apps that can track your brainwave activity when you meditate (checking for focus levels and beta, alpha, theta and delta activity). This isn’t something I regularly track, but is more of an experiment at the moment.
Personally, I’ve tracked a lot of areas in my life, not just health related things. Years ago I started off with my personal memex project to build a single app that tracked all aspects of my life: a place to write down memories and help with recall, my travel journal, research notes, and eventually made it a place to track my workouts. I still use it quite a bit, but I it required a lot of manual data entry. For me the appeal of Quantified Self and the new health-related gadgets is the tracking is mostly transparent and data capture is done for you automatically.
M: So what do you work on now?
Eric: I’ve been focused on consolidating and analyzing my self-tracking data from a number of gadgets (Fitbit, Zeo, Withings, Garmin, etc.). The challenge with many of the vendors is that data is usually transferred to their own site, but they don’t always allow you to easily get access for your own analysis. You’re locked in to the reports and graphs they provide and sometimes have a limited view of historical data (Fitbit only shows 30-days of past data). Some companies have created APIs to get data, but it can be difficult to consolidate all of this to a central pIace. I found it very helpful to analyze data (sleep, activity, gps/location etc.) from all of these sources and create my own customized reports and charts that have really helped with discovering patterns and staying active. This project is called TRAQS (Tools for Reporting & Analysis of the Quantified Self – http://traqs.me). My plan is to make the app available to the general public very soon.
M: Why do you think QS is so crazy popular on the West Coast?
Eric: Well, it originated in San Francisco which is both very tech and health-centric. When I went to QS Conference, there seemed to be a lot of health/personal development enthusiasts. I think the appeal of QS is the combination of technology, health, personal development, and the DIY vibe appeals to many hackers.
M: It feels that people bring their personal discoveries to another level by sharing and creating social good. Thank you, Eric, for your time and this great information on QS!
PS I checked out Eric’s blog and was very impressed with his post 5 years ago on mind mapping and goal setting.

See Eric’s other Presentations on Location Tracking and QS Device Show and Tell
The last LA QS event’s list of some of the medtech/QS sites: Cakehealth, Healthcare, Avado_Individuals, HealthVault, Medikeeper; Financial: Mint, Indinero.

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