Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Quantifying My Life

Fitbit Force is also a watch
When you get right down to it, each of us is somewhat obsessed with data that is “all about me.”

It started with my Nike+ chip in my shoe about 4 years ago.  I was a runner at the time and had been manually mapping and measuring my runs using the “get directions” function on Google Maps to record my distances.  With the chip on board in my shoe and an iPhone 3G strapped to my arm, I was finally able to get an automatic map drawn of my run along with a record of my total time, I was thrilled.  

Next, I migrated to the Nike+ application on the iPhone that produced the same map and timings, but now did it using the new iPhone 4 with it’s built in GPS rather than relying on a separate chip embedded in my shoe.  The app would cheer me on with encouragement as I accomplished my goals.  Later I migrated to RunKeeper in order to better capture my data over time and receive audio cues every 5 or 10 minutes telling me my distance, time, and speed.  The accompanying portal built a day-by-day, month-by-month view of my running trends, showing me progress over time. My run had become quantified.

Fitbit Activity Dashboard
Fast forward a few years (or digital decades) and today, I wear a Fitbit Force that tracks my every step and activity 24x7.  It monitors and reports steps taken, miles walked, stair flights climbed, calories burned, highly active minutes, and even sleep patterns.  It gives me moving averages of my nightly slumber hours and even how long it takes me to fall asleep.  (btw, I average 5:46 hours a night with a sleep efficiency of 98%.) It encourages me with a small vibration on my wrist and a display celebration when I reach my goal of 10,500 steps in a day (a little over 5 miles), and gives me a chorus of kudos when I check my individual stats on the dashboard portal available on my iPhone, iPad, and web browser.  Now all my waking hours and sleep are quantified.

Strava tracks my ride in real time
While I still like to run, my back prefers that I do something less stressful, so I’ve taken up cycling on a road bike.  It really is a pleasure riding through the countryside of beautiful Bucks County in PA.  Now, on the bike, I track and record all my cycling stats using either Runkeeper or Strava.  Using each of these apps, I can measure my heart rate, calories burned, distance climbed, and distance traveled.  With Strava, I get the added benefit of a segment by segment analysis of my ride, compared to other riders who have followed a similar route.  I use a Bluetooth heartstrap that transmits a constant heartbeat stream to my iPhone.  Strava captures it all and posts it to the portal where I can share (and brag) my stats to my cycling friends or curious Facebook onlookers.  Often I receive “kudos” of encouragement from my cycling friends who follow my rides.  One of them regularly keeps up with me from 14 time zones away in Brisbane, Australia, another just 6 time zones away in Madrid.  Now, my ride is quantified.

Nest tracks my energy history
But wait, it even goes beyond that.  I have even quantified my home.  My Nest thermostat tells me many details about the energy usage in my home, also letting me monitor and set the temperature from anywhere using my iPhone or iPad.  It tracks my energy usage over time and congratulates me with a green leaf when I have an exceptionally energy efficient day.

We all have been hearing about the rapid growth of the Internet of Things, but I think the real excitement comes when we can measure nearly everything about our selves and our lives, and emerge as the Quantified Self. Really when you get right down to it, each of us is somewhat obsessed with data that is “all about me.”