Is it true that iHealth Biometrics are the next big revolution? Let’s try to address a burning question: the semantics of revolution. Does a revolution have to happen all at once? Does it need to be sudden, a jolting start, a dramatic shift, like an earthquake, which rends one moment from another, forever splitting the past and the future? Or can it be quiet, and behind the scenes, until one day you look around and notice that everything has changed?
The launch of the first smartphone was one of those obvious revolutionary moments. Suddenly, the capacity for what we could do changed, and it took with it our imaginations. Things that had recently seemed impossible, like talking face-to-face with someone while on the bus, or having access to all the information in the world in your pocket, was a real thing. To me, that was the most important thing about smartphones — our relationship to knowledge had changed. It was the (heretofore) culmination of the information age: knowledge was something we could always have access to. It had come to our homes in the form of the desktop computer, and now it had come to our hands.
But, as the fella said, you also have to know yourself. And that’s where the slow-burning revolution has come in — the field of mobile technology and health, or biometrics. iHealth Biometrics has been slowly growing, and now seems ubiquitous. This ubiquity was recently solidified by a Chinese firm investing $25 million in Mountain View’s iHealth, a creator of mobile biometric apps. The market for understanding yourself is enormous now, and global, and it is about much more than a successful business model.
iHealth Biometics, Apple Watch, and other cool health apps can modify behavior
I admit it — I’m late to this party. It wasn’t until very recently that I joined the party of “people interested in their health”. Not the best lifestyle, for sure. I purchased a Samsung Galaxy S4 not long ago, and it came with some built-in health widgets, including a step-tracker. (if you’re reading this, Samsung, I’m totally willing to do a commercial. Call me.) It was around this time, coincidentally, that I became interested in getting healthy. I had recently quit(ish) smoking and was eating better. But the only results I was curious about were “feeling better” and “not getting winded from waking up.” Measuring wasn’t that important.
In a weird way, the GS4 changed that. The step counter was the first big one, as I became interested in how much I walked, or didn’t walk, every day. I enjoyed walking, but the writerly life often kept me indoors, and now I could see horrifying (if slightly inaccurate) stats about having taken 200 steps that day. I started taking more regular walks, not just ones with a purpose, and was curious to see how it went up. On days that I didn’t go on nonessential walks, I honestly felt like my phone was kind of disappointed in me.
That’s obviously a personal story — a very personal one — but I think there is some universality in it. These apps and devices tap into a few key things about how we work as humans, and what our motivations are.
- We love to measure things. Everyone has at some point been bored and counted the ceiling tiles or the window panes or something in their environment. We’re addicted to measurements, to seeing how things stack up. And it is even better if it is presented to us already counted, so that we can start doing comparisons.
- We project our insecurities and worries onto inanimate objects. Smartphones are smart, and try to get to know us, algorithmically speaking, but they aren’t actually sentient. Still, we worry about letting the phone down when it comes to working out. It knows about us — that we aren’t doing what we should be. However, in reality that’s just projecting.
- We’re more motivated with tangible results. Losing weight is hard. It takes forever and you don’t always see results. And that’s just one aspect of health, one with some of the most noticeable effects. For other more subtle things, it is hard to get motivated without any immediate payoff. With biometric apps, you can understand your health on a more day-to-day basis. This is important for maintaining it.
Knowing thyself – iHealth Biometrics
All this comes together to change our relationship with ourselves, in the same way that smartphones forever changed our conception of the practicality and reach of knowledge. We can, for the first time, understand what is making our body work, how what we’re doing every day impacts us. We can go for a run while wearable apps monitor our vital signs, and the results can be awaiting you on your tablet when you get home. You won’t need to be strapped to the compressing arm-squeezer of doom to know your blood pressure — your blood pressure can be checked immediately and anywhere.
What this means is that we’re living in a time where health is something constant and immediate, not something that only comes up when we’re sick or facing a catastrophe. We have knowledge of our bodies that doesn’t come from seeing a doctor. Don’t get me wrong — doctors are amazing and will always be valuable; knowledge doesn’t replace talented professionals; it augments them. It’s an auxiliary of their abilities. For once, you can work with your doctor to stay healthy, and to know what is going on inside you.
To be sure, that isn’t what “know thyself” means; it’s meant to understand your mind, and to be true to that. Still, the mind is what the brain does, and the brain can’t do anything if the body stops functioning. Knowing ourselves, on a fundamentally different level than we were even recently able to, can make the life of the mind a longer-lasting possibility.
Stay tuned for more thoughts from ClickAway about new technology and what it takes to keep it running well.