For several years, data visionaries have been predicting that the last great frontier of data was to be found on our bodies, but with the exception of the occasional fitness band or food diary app, the quantified self has been mostly a fantasy. But this year’s CES shows the quantified self may have finally reached an early level of maturity and with a new, consumer-friendlier name -- the digital lifestyle.
The term "digital lifestyle" fits a more Jetsons-like futurist ideal than "quantified life," which sounds an awful lot like living your life counting Weight Watchers points. But they basically mean the same thing: incorporating sensors, apps, and connected machines into our daily lives. That means for digital lifestyle, you can include both the fitness band and something like the Nest thermostat, which technically doesn’t count as quantified life. But for the sake of old-timers like myself, let’s look only at products that used to fall under the quantified self.
Quantified-self products are going from simple fitness monitors to full-blown health products. My favorite is the Parrot Zik Sport. It is a simple set of noise-cancelling headphones that can also monitor a person’s heart rate, distance run, and most interestingly, running style. With the help of an app, it can actually teach you to be a better runner. This is the key to the next generation of quantified-self products, which will offer a small, but important difference by not merely counting what you do, but helping you do it better.
Another way to improve the usefulness and sales of quantified-self products is added features. Here is a simple smart pedal for a bicycle. It can track how much you peddled and how far you traveled. It is equipped with GPS, and it does all the things you’d expect an exercise device to do. It also allows you to track your bicycle when it is stolen. Integrating security into the app makes it go from just another fitness device to a must-have for any serious cyclist with a serious bike.
Up until now, this was all we could expect from a smart cycle:
Perhaps the most interesting device at CES takes the quantified self into the realm of serious healthcare. The Quell is a portable device that claims to be able to end chronic pain through “non-invasive neurostimulation technology.” It is portable. You can wear it while active or sleeping to reduce chronic pain from diseases such as diabetes or sciatica. The machine also tracks your use of the device and your pain levels. In addition to stopping pain, the use of the device to track it could help your doctor intervene and better manage your disease.
One of my silliest but most profound introductions was a simple sensor by Kiqplan. It shows the future of quantified self might be putting your own sensors on objects (they suggest the cookie jar). The formerly “dumb” device becomes a connected smart device. Open your cookie jar and now it says something like, “Are you sure you want a cookie?” Granted, I’d be more likely to smash the sensor and eat the cookie. But if you’re into this, it is the best way to create a quantified life customized to your own needs. At the very least, the app will count how many times you opened the cookie jar this month. More creative uses may lead to DIY solutions to many problems.
It is these DIY solutions that are most likely going to send quantified self or digital lifestyles into the stratosphere. Each time someone hacks one of these products it will become a new product we all can share. This year at CES, we’re seeing the first generation of really useful products in this vein. Quantified self and the digital lifestyle are finally here and I couldn’t be happier. What do you think? Do any of these products intrigue you? Do you want any of them? Does the idea of the quantified life frighten you? Comment below.