Some facts about self-tracking and the quantified self

self-tracking tools

The concept of “self-tracking” is emerging as a new phenomenon in recent times.  People can use and record specific features of their lives, sometimes using digital technologies.  One can measure day-to-day activities that can improve their quality of life.  People can refer it as life-logging, the quantified self, personal analytic and personal informatics.  The quantified self movement is all about tracking the raw data to try to draw correlations and ways to improve life from it.

Quantified self evolved in 2007 through a proposal in San Francisco, CA by Wired Magazine editors Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly.  This has been as a result of collaboration of users and tool makers who share an interest in self-knowledge through self-tracking.  Now, Quantified Self Movement is an annual feature with conferences held in USA and Europe and other places around the globe.  Global community has now over a hundred groups in 34 countries around the world.

The major focus of quantified self has been in health and wellness improvement.  Many devices/services are helping people to keep track of caloric intake, posture and physical activity.  Sleep quality and other aspects of personal well-being are also tracked.  Quantified self is becoming more and more used to improve personal and professional productivity.  They are helping to keep track of what they are doing during the workday.  How and where they spend their time and their mode of interaction.  It helps people to feel motivated and keep moving by monitoring their progress.

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Quantified Selfers use phones, journals, gadgets and apps to record things like sleep.  They also record air quality, stress levels, heart rate and mood.  The basic idea is to gather data and learn from it.  To use that information to achieve better health.  Quantified Self Movement is alluring because of possible benefits of tracking one’s own health.  There are also some overenthusiastic persons.  They track everything from bowel movements to sex habits.  In general, most people do some simple self-tracking everyday, e.g. counting number of glasses of water they drink or stepping on the scale before bed.

Self-tracking sites are proliferating as part of the technology and ethos of self-tracking.

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Self-tracking is on the rise.  New institutes and meeting groups are coming up across the globe.  Various sites and Twitter account give a good starting point for people who take interest in quantified self movement.  There are also many good apps such as StudyCure and MyFitnessPal .  The QSM site provides a full list of apps with descriptions and details of each.

Tracking health does not guarantee better health.  It can only bring a new awareness to people’s daily routine. The Quantified Self Movement is all about motivating people.  It allows them to take health and wellness into their own hands.

The growing popularity of the quantified self movement is spreading in various capacities to the general non-technical public.  Consumers begin to have access to technology that tracks their personalized healthcare data in light of their sequenced genomic information.  Some popular questions are arising, which are the following:  How will/should medicine respond?, how should future physicians prepare for this health information technology?, and what is the most relevant and efficacious approach to using this information in medicine?  If one is tech-savvy self-tracker, in what capacity would they like a physician to provide healthcare?

For one it is going to decrease the costs of conducting cohort studies.

Analytics will become important assuming that services will allow for one’s self-tracking data to add and to a certain extent and there will be a market for third-party analysis tools.

Additionally, it might make the family physician relevant/profitable again since self-tracking will make tele-medicine more workable and widespread, although this family physician will likely being responsible for a greater number of patients than in the past.

In the end, one has to mention that the overwhelming amount of data available through standardized digital records and self-tracking will impact the approval process of pharmaceuticals  and decrease costs.  For studies conducted to determine scope of use, efficacy and safety, it is in the interests of the pharmaceutical companies to control and keep private as much of the process as possible.

A few examples of the common self-tracking tools used are:



Sleep Cycle



My Trek

Nike Fuelband



Do you self-track? Will you leave health tracking to doctors or is it for everyone? Share your experiences in the comments below


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