Mobile wellness...idea #27/100...
Physical fitness and overall wellness are increasingly important to many of us. Heart-rate monitoring is an already well established "wearable computer" application. Dedicated devices such as the watches from Polar are affordable and widely available. Some of them already interface to the mobile phone.
We can expect that wearable computers (mobiles) will become an integrated part of our approach to ensuring wellness, especially if preventive medicine becomes more prevalent. In this context, monitoring of certain vital signs, as well as other bio-indicators, is more effective with frequency. In some cases, constant or frequent monitoring will be considered a strong defence against illness. Thus, wearable monitoring solutions will become more popular.
I am fascinated by recent studies that indicate that heart-rate variability is an important indicator of wellness. I already mentioned this in an earlier post when I suggested that bio-feedback mechanisms could be incorporate into mobiles to allow user entraining of their heart variation.
I wonder what other vital signs can be monitored and then processed in our mobile devices. Will there come a time when visiting the GP can be made more effective if the GP can instantly view a recent history of such vitals? Indeed, I wonder what research has been done to indicate the usefulness of non-specific bio-monitoring in GP diagnosis and treatment protocols.
Monitoring of certain bio-factors can indicate our stress levels and underlying emotional state. Could this be combined with other information, perhaps also collected by our mobiles, to assist us in our decision making? For example, a "high stress" indication might suggest delaying a forth-coming meeting to another time, or that we take time out for a relaxation routine.
It is perfectly feasible that monitoring could be correlated with other activities, such as phone calls. Thus, particular callers could be analysed in terms of their effect on our stress levels. At stressful times, we might even think of automatically filtering-out calls from "stressful callers". We might also be prompted to call a known "soother" for a chat, knowing that the call is likely to reduce stress levels. Alternatively, we watch a short mobile video for inspiration, relaxation, excitement, or whichever emotional state we need to induce or reduce.
Of course, monitoring functions can only be enhanced by wireless communications. The monitoring devices themselves might be tiny wearable units that communicate via Bluetooth to the central processing device (e.g. mobile phone or iPod). Work has been done by some research groups to formulate distributed architectures for wearable computer networks, such that communications is minimised to save battery life.
The wireless connection will allow remote monitoring possibilities. Will there emerge a market for remote wellness monitoring stations, just like we have alert stations for household alarms?
If we're going to carry a computer (mobile phone) around all day, we may as well program it to do other useful tasks. Monitoring wellness seems worthwhile.
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