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Smartphones as sensor platforms for health tracking

By September 7, 2010 October 6th, 2010 12 Comments

image Earlier in the year I wrote a couple of posts about the future of healthcare from a consumer products perspective.  One of my points was that data gathered from smart phones and specialist wireless health devices will enable a new generation of products, and I named a couple that I have been using.  I’m writing today about some new developments in this sphere.

Nike just released a new iPhone app which takes run tracking to a new level.  It uses the GPS sensor and accelerometer to track pace, distance, and calories burned and visually maps the run routes on Google Maps – see the picture insert.  Full review on VentureBeat.

I have been using Runkeeper, which does many of the same things, but with a less intuitive interface.  In particular Runkeeper makes it difficult to see exactly where on my run I go slowly and where I go at a better pace.  I’ve installed the Nike app and will try it out tomorrow.

Nike have slapped a £1.19 charge on the app though which I think is a strange decision.  Their reason for releasing the app must be brand promotion, and, given that any revenues Nike might earn from app sales will be negligible in the context of their apparel business, I would have thought their best strategy would be to get the maximum number of installs by making the app free.

This Nike app, and also Runkeeper, Gymfu and the others that I use make use of the sensors within the iPhone (accelerometer, GPS).  I’m also fascinated by the idea of third party sensors that connect to the iPhone to display data and sync with web apps.  The Withings scale I have at home works in this way and my next ask is for a heart rate monitor that works in the same way.

I haven’t been able to find one yet, but the device from ithelete in the pictures below points the way.  It connects with a heart rate monitor and runs analytics on the heart rhythm which guide how hard you should train on any given day.  That is a little sophisticated for my training requirements, but will bring information formerly only available to professionals to serious amateurs.

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