In 2014 I wrote on the quantifiable self and posited that maybe we are tracking and logging our personal activities too closely. With fitness trackers we count steps taken and calories expended and sleep gained. These devices log spent energy, but what about calories taken in? I have been thinking lately about the technology around intake nutrition tracking as a complement to activity tracking. There are some interesting developments and some devices that seem like technology for technology’s sake and not a meaningful contribution towards tracking our health.
Molecular level scanners are being developed that allow consumers to determine the nutritional components of their food. Tellspec has created a small spectroscopy scanner that is paired with an analysis app to give you a breakdown of the food you are consuming. A beta version is shipping now and the full version will be available in August or September 2016. According to the Tellspec website they:
“combine spectroscopy, bioinformatics techniques and learning algorithms to analyze consumer foods at the molecular level. The three-part system includes the Tellspec’s food sensor, a cloud-based patented analysis engine and a mobile app that work together to scan foods, identify ingredients and provide details about the food scanned.”
This is a great development for diabetics, allergy sufferers, and for those wanting to watch their intake more closely. It can also educate all of us on the ingredients in our food. I will watch the developments of this product.
Just as Tellspec is developing food scanners, others are developing methods of scanning drinks for their ingredients and nutritional value. Mark One is developing a smart cup they call Vessyl that will detect the components of the drink inside. Through Bluetooth technology, the cup will send the nutritional information to an accompanying app and will record the cumulative nutritional information as well as warnings of non-healthful components in the drink. The final Vessyl is due to ship in late 2017 after some delay due to sensor technology development. In the meantime, the Vessyl Pryme is available to remind you when you are fully hydrated.
There is also a social aspect to nutrition in the need to have support for your nutritional goals or limitations. To that end, there are websites such as glutenfreesingles.com. There is also the more generic singleswithfoodallergies.com. This is an example of technology that can bring together people who share nutritional goals. Perhaps the folks who meet at these sites can soon use their food and drink scanners to compare their personal health information.
For people with food allergies or illnesses that require monitoring of food intake, these technologies are a great step forward in allowing them to live life more fully. For people trying to live a healthier life, I also applaud these developments and hope they come to market soon. For those few who obsess over every calorie, I think that these tools might fuel their obsession. Let me know your thoughts.
Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.