Cart Before the Horse: The Coming Biometric Sensor Wars

Personal biometric tracking ("me-trics") is growing like a gremlin hitting a swimming pool.

Ok, so maybe that's an overstatement of the small, tight sector's early strength, but not by much.

Wired Magazine 'legitimized' the segment with a #quantifiedself themed article.

There's even a Quantified Self meetup group in San Francisco and Silicon Valley (where @shazow and I recently demoed early lessons learned from building and launching http://getupandmove.me).

Big business is getting involved: Qualcomm has been showing all kinds of promising iPhone wireframes with external biometric sensor feed integration (at TEDMED and Telecom Council of Silicon Valley's mHealth meetup for a start).

I know of at *least* 3 Bay Area startups that are working on customized biometric sensors for health and vital sign tracking and constant data feeds.

And while all of this has to happen, and we SHOULD be evolving quantitative leaps and bounds beyond the current constraints of a wired heart monitor the size of my Eames kitchen table, we may be putting the cart before the horse here.

Where will all this wonderful always on measurements of the biorhythms that make me, well, me GO? 

Where will we import them? Track them? Manage and measure anomalies? 

We're still missing the viable software platform (which I think is a personal health record-esque animal) that will make USING this wonderful datastream possible.

Examples of this kind of simple platform are all around us.

We're lifestreaming on Twitter. Granted, that's just text-text conversions, so to liveblog we don't face the same data translational programming human-machine interface challenges we face with live biometric tracking. 

And now some early startups are testing interfaces and how this might look reflected in a consumer-oriented software platform using something most of us want more of and something most of us can't get enough of (no, it does NOT require two people to accomplish - keep your minds out of the gutter here people)...

I'm talking about - sleep. 

Zeo and YCombinator startup WakeMate (cool guys, good product, check it out) are both bare-knuckling it for an early lead in this market of tracking zzzs. 

Brad Feld is starting to use the service, and like most biometric tracking, finds that the following elements are critical:

1. Use the thing regularly. Seems like a moot point or worthy of a Captain Obvious award, but when you consider how many people don't take their meds you begin to see the psychosocial challenges that will occur when we try to get a mass market biometric device in use.

2. Establish a baseline.

3. HAVE GOALS. Also seems like a blindingly obvious point, but chances are you aren't tracking sleep/wakefulness biometrics unless...you have issues with getting enough good sleep. 

How will we transition the needs of wider health and wellness metrics into concise, easy to articulate goals that inform integrated human-machine interface design?

4. Sleep around. Try different devices. Like Goldilocks, some of us will need a big chair with tons of data, some of us will need a smaller serving of info in our breakfast bowl. 

But all of this is a big of playing with a market that's still got nothing pulling the traces of the wagon. 

Wherefore art though personal health platform? I'm waiting for you to be built and help me get a good night's sleep, among other things...

Posted via email from Jen's Posterous

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