Over the past few weeks, I've been exploring the world of lifelogging. Unfamiliar with this term? You're not alone. Although lifelogging has existed for a few decades, it's only now starting to acquire mainstream traction. Indeed, many people believe that it's a trend that will grow phenomenally over the next few years.
Lifelogging is the process of actively tracking, recording and analysing data about yourself to gain a greater insight into your physical health, your daily levels of productivity and a whole range of other areas. The reason for its sudden growth is the mass availability of connected devices such as the Fitbit, the Nike FuelBand and the Jawbone UP.
These devices simplify what would otherwise be a laborious and time-consuming exercise. You simply wear them on your wrist or clip them to your belt. The devices then monitor your activity both during the day and at night, meticulously noting your levels of activity, rest and sleep. The data is then pulled into one central online hub and can be analysed across a range of tools and devices, e.g., iPhone, etc.
[caption id="attachment_1461" align="aligncenter" width="300"] A typical day's activity in Fitbit[/caption]
Over two weeks, I was amazed at the information and insight I was offered about myself. Not only this, you're also given suggestions as to how you could improve your lifestyle, e.g., running straight after breakfast as opposed to lunchtime as I appear to burn more calories at this time of day. The wealth of data was simply staggering.
What I find truly fascinating though is the prospect of layering all this personal data into a stack. For example, layering physical activity on top of dietary, on top of productivity, on top of travel, on top of banking records, on top of phone calls, etc. Providing such a holistic view of your daily activity with some form of data analysis provides us with a rare opportunity to gain a greater understanding of ourselves and make changes accordingly.
In many respects, this also ties to the Internet of Things. Imagine the consequences of connecting your physical activity and calorie intake to your fridge. Imagine if this data was then shared with a supermarket. It could completely change how we shop for food. The supermarket would be able to understand what staple foods we eat and when they need replenishing. The supermarket would even be able to know if I'm away from home and that I need fresh milk on my return. This type of connectivity could radically alter our lifestyles.
Aside from the specialist devices that have been created for lifelogging, e.g., the Nike FuelBand, it's our mobile devices that are helping to create a real surge of people gathering more personal data. However, it's not just the individual users who are gathering this data as we saw from last year's iPhone news storm that revealed Apple was tracking users' locations without consent. And this highlights a key concern, what would happen if this mass of data were readily accessible to the highest bidder. Something many people are concerned about.
[caption id="attachment_1464" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Need to work harder[/caption]
Sharing this data may be no bad thing though. At least on a consensual basis. Sharing your physical activity with an insurer could lower your premiums. Sharing it with your employer could lead to incentives. Sharing it with your doctor could lead to automated monitoring. There's so much potential here.
Still, to do this requires not only cultural shifts but also technological shifts. To be able to accumulate, analyse and share this data is still a challenge. Much of the physical activity monitoring requires GPS and data connectivity. Something that proved challenging for me both in rural and urban environments. Over the course of two weeks I lost GPS tracking on a number of occasions.
Although I'm somewhat glad to be handing my devices back after a few weeks of experimenting, I'll be fascinated to see how the lifelogging trend develops. There's no question that access to this wealth of data has altered many aspects of my daily routine. What do you think to lifelogging? Is this something you've tried? Do you believe the collation of this personal data could be beneficial? I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.