Track, share, compare

Track, Share and Compare: The Hot Trend of Self-Tracking

Self-tracking is rapidly moving mainstream. As if to underscore this point, as I was flying to Las Vegas to deliver this presentation at the American College of Sports Medicine Health & Fitness Summit & Exposition, I reached into the seat pocket in front of me and pulled out the ubiquitous SkyMall magazine. The cover featured a self-tracking pedometer type device, with text inviting readers to “Join the movement.”

It’s not just SkyMall that is highlighting self-tracking. The Economist and Oprah Magazine recently ran features on it. New gadgets, such as the Nike+ Fuelband, are joining old favorites, such as pedometers.

This talk is based on a version I delivered by invitation at the mHealth Networking Conference a year ago.  Since then, there have been thousands of new apps and all sorts of nifty new sensors. Tracking communities are expanding and the resulting data are ushering in a new era of research design and biostatistics that will complement randomized controlled trials (RCTs).

Opportunities for health professionals — as well as the rest of the tracking ecosystem — are rapidly expanding almost as fast as the apps.  But there are also down sides. Prices for most tracking gadgets remain high, accuracy issues abound, there are communities for which tracking is unhealthy, and health literacy and numeracy are often overlooked.

When I asked the room full of health and fitness professionals to raise their hands if they tracked, almost everyone raised their hand. When I asked how many of them tracked at least one metric by old-fashioned paper and pencil, more than half of their hands remained raised. It’s a good reminder that at the end of the day, self-tracking is not about shiny gadgets or cool apps, but is simply about trying to capture information that will offer a narrative of part of your life.

Key resources cited in the presentation are listed below.

A gallery of wearable tech gadgets is available on Pinterest

Examples of Tracking communities and organizations

Lists of tracking tools

Examples of Sensors

Reports & publications


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