The self-monitored life

Are you ready to track every step you take, every calorie you consume, every hour you sleep? If you are, you can.

Are people ready to take on the tech-empowered personal health monitoring revolution? This is the question Techonomy magazine asks in a recent article.

Announced for 2015, Apple's healthcare-oriented iWatch is probably the device that most symbolizes this new health monitoring trend. But things have been building for years through many lesser known products, such as wearable devices from Polar, sensor-lined garments from AiQ, or sensor insoles by Moticon that track heartbeat, body temperature and so on. Then there are countless other medical devices that allow physicians to remotely monitor their patients' health.

Well before the iWatch announcement, in a 2012 Information Week article, IMS Research, research partner of the company Wearable Technologies, predicted that wearable technologies in healthcare would exceed $US2.9 billion by 2016.

Will this self-monitoring revolution lead to personal empowerment or hopeless confusion? The Techonomy article asks this question, and with good reason, especially when you consider one of the most powerful tools to emerge from this movement: consumer genomics. The purpose of this nascent field of study is to decode genetic data to help people make decisions on their diet, training or medical treatment.

Many in government regulatory organizations believe people should not have access to all this information without expert guidance, and controls should be enforced accordingly. Others think access should be open.

"It is just morally wrong to deny anybody access to data on themselves, whether it is their medical record or molecular data generated on them," says Eric Schadt, director of a genomics institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, in the Techonomy article. "If genetic data is generated on me, I should not only own those data, but I should have the right to choose who I want to share those data with."

More probably, the consumer health monitoring trend will just continue growing. One major contribution — and business opportunity — will lie in future analytical tools and apps that will help consumers store, interpret and put into perspective all the data collected from myriad devices and tests.