Spark Salon Conversation Starters

May 29, 2012

Why I Want to Be Chipped

Peter Ha is a tech journalist and one of the founding editors of The Daily

Technology is (or was?) meant to help humanity simplify certain tasks. You know, make us lazier our lives easier. But given our current trajectory, we may end up like the piles of putty in Wall-E that represent the fleshy future of humanity as a sedentary race.

That is unless, we all get chipped. So let’s do it.

Technology embedded in our bodies is currently the only means of gathering completely accurate health data. Diabetics, for example, have been using embedded sensors like the Dexcom Seven Plus to track glucose levels for years.

Sure, it may seem a little too extreme to get chipped for purposes of tracking our heart rates at the gym. The average 5ker doesn’t have the same functional necessity that the diabetic does, but we can certainly benefit from such a technology. Embedded chips will help us actively monitor our own health. We’ll know if we’ve gained a pound, or if our blood sugar is low, or even if we’ve hit a personal best while running. The smartphone will act as our new doctors (or trainers, or moms) that help us translate what our bodies are telling us into cold, hard, readable data.

We’re already moving in that direction. Though it might not know it, Nintendo has been the conduit for making healthy consumer tech a sexy and profitable thing with the introduction of the Wii. No longer do we solely depend on tech to make our lives easier, but we depend on it to enhance our lives through things like fitness, exercise, health, and fun.

After the Wii, Microsoft and Sony followed suit with their own motion-controlled gaming peripherals and rightfully so. But companies like Nike and Jawbone, who are moving fitness away from the TV and back into the real world, are on the fringe of making this particular scene the next big thing.

Companies like Withings and Fitbit have learned from Nike, Jawbone, Nintendo, and Microsoft, and are attempting to move the ball forward by way of gamification. Why else would you ever share your weight or how fast you ran a mile through social networks? The most glaring issue, though, is that they're all so far from being perfect that it's laughable.

Having religiously worn a Nike FuelBand since its launch, I came to the sudden realization while on a SXSW stroll through Austin that the data being collected and presented was inaccurate. Does it take into account my body temperature, the outside temperature, or elevation? Of course not, it's little more than a glorified pedometer.

For this burgeoning consumer health tech industry to really have a long-term positive effect on humanity, it's imperative that we get a little mad scientist.

The proliferation of smartphones has made it easier to monitor data in real-time, but for the majority of the world, the smartphone has acted as little more than a means to occupy idle time throughout the day. But imagine having an embedded chip in your wrist, for example, that could relay vitals or body temperature and heart rate straight to your iPhone. Wouldn't that make you more active?

One startup that’s attempting to bridge that gap between standard wearable fitness monitoring tools and something a little more potentially, ahem, drastic, is Misfits Wearables. Formed last year by the co-founders of Agamatrix and former Apple CEO John Sculley, the company promises a wearable device that integrates seamlessly into the user's life. The company, named after the late Steve Jobs, says that these devices “shouldn’t compete with fashion and [have] to have functions outside of sensing.”

If that doesn’t sound a bit mad scientist, I don’t know what does. The most interesting part is that they believe what they're building will be so critical to a user that if it were left at home, they would have no choice but to go back and get it.

I see this as the first step towards a chipped existence where we’re so in tune with our bodies (and our phones) that it’s almost second nature to know personal vitals and health statistics.

But until that day comes, I need to go for a run. I'm not even close to hitting my Fuel score for the day.

 

 

This article is commissioned by Qualcomm Incorporated. The views expressed are the author's own

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