Tag Archives: health

The Technology of Sleep

A woman sleeps clutching a smart phone.I have written before about what I call the examined or quantified life. We try to measure aspects of our life such as heart rate or calorie consumption or number of steps taken. This is often part of an attempt to adjust various aspects of our life to bring more control and meaning to our existence. One of the areas that we may not focus on enough is sleep. If done right it should represent a third of our 24 hour day. This blog post highlights various ideas, technologies, and methods to help quantify, and hopefully improve, sleep.

A Measure of Success

It used to be that lack of sleep was a positive sign that we were too busy and important to take such a long break. A recent New York Times article titled “Sleep Is the New Status Symbol” suggests just the opposite is in vogue. The author cites studies that show lost productivity and health crises attributed to lack of sleep. Now, it is more desirable and advantageous to get enough sleep, whether it be in one block or augmented with a short nap during the day. Quality sleep is the new gold.

There have been studies and articles suggesting smartphones and other devices are disrupting our sleep through bright light and mental stimulation. But there are also devices and apps for measuring sleep quality and duration. Apple’s iOS 10 has a sleep timer built right into the clock that reminds you when it is time to go to bed and then gently wakes you. In addition, it tracks your sleep and makes that available to iOS Health for logging. Also available is the SleepCycle app for Apple devices and SleepBot for Android smartphones. These all encourage you to go to bed and wake up on time through an audible alarm and then track the time that your phone is motionless so that you can modify your patterns if necessary.

Sleep Aids

Pharmaceutical sleep aids sometimes cause addictions or even interrupt sleep that they are supposed to protect. However, there are new technologies that are promising to bring deep, uninterrupted rest. While light on details, the Dreem headband promises to bring a restorative sleep. Due out this summer, the device uses electroencephalogram (EEG) technology to monitor brain patterns and produce soothing sounds at just the right moments. Like the apps mentioned above and wearable devices, it also tracks your duration and quality of sleep.

The Thim device, previewed in the above-mentioned New York Times article, will also debut this summer. Thim trains you to get to sleep faster, thus leading to a better quality sleep. It does this by waking you every three minutes after you first fall asleep in the evening. This is intended to condition your body to go to sleep faster. Personally, I think it would drive me crazy but it may work for some. It also tracks your sleep duration and patterns.

Thoughts

There are some medical issues that prevent sleep and should be dealt with, but for those of us with overactive minds or poor scheduling habits, technology can help. Personally I can go to sleep in five minutes but my brain reengages about 3:00 a.m. and it is not always easy to get back to sleep. I follow all of the standard wisdom, but to no avail. Perhaps one of these monitors or trackers might be just the thing I need. I actually sleep better in a sleeping bag in the woods than in my own bed, which may say something about me.

Have you had success with a sleep app or wearable or other technology? How has it made a difference in your life? Please share your experiences so maybe the rest of us can learn better sleep practices from you.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

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.

Life Logging: Tracking Nutrition

INutrition tracking.n 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 Scanning

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.

Liquid Nutrition

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.

Social Nutrition

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.

Thoughts

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.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

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.

Advances in Wellness: Improving the Quantified Self

Conceptual image of a running man and his heart rate.New medical products and apps introduced at the recent Consumer Electronic Show Digital Health Summit (CES) present a lot of promise for keeping us healthy and safe. Often overshadowed by tech gadgets such as new cars and new artificial intelligence products, it’s time to give the medical developments their day in the sun.

Pathway Genomics OME

The Pathway OME app is powered by IBM Watson and is a comprehensive app that collects personal health information from a variety of sources including electronic health records, data from health monitoring devices, and even a DNA sample. From this data, the app will give you advice or alert you to potential health issues. Through the IBM Watson’s data intelligence power you can receive personalized information on potential interactions with food and drugs or receive a custom diet and exercise regimen.

Wisewear

Who says that health and safety monitoring can’t be fashionable? Wisewear makes a fashion bracelet that monitors vital statistics and acts as an emergency beacon. When you think you are in danger or need help, tap the stylish bracelet three times and it will connect with your phone to send out text alerts, including your location, to friends. This is a great marriage of form and function.

Quell

Neurometrix makes a pain management device that is drug free and monitors and counteracts chronic pain 24/7. This is an electrode that is worn on the upper calf just below the knee and delivers a signal that blocks pain neurotransmitters throughout the body. It counteracts pain from arthritis and other musculoskeletal issues and allows the wearer to enjoy work and activities. It synchs with a smartphone app to deliver a profile of your pain management. It is adjustable and easily rechargeable. My father used to connect leads to a voltage generator to help ease his arthritis pain. I realize now that he was just ahead of his time, although maybe his system was not quite as elegant.

Mimo

The Mimo Smart Baby Monitor uses very low voltage sensors built into a baby sleeper to deliver information about breathing, movement, and sleep/wake patterns to a smartphone app. This, in theory, lowers stress for new parents and allows them to sleep better. The same information is also available to other smartphones if a parent has to be out of town but still wants to track their baby. Definitely a quantified life right from day one.

Resound

Enzo hearing aids from Resound combine advanced technology with a sophisticated smartphone app that lets you fine tune your hearing to different conditions. Whether you find yourself in a crowded noisy room or in a quiet place trying to hear a soft voice, the app lets you discreetly adjust your hearing aids. You can also couple them to your smartphone to listen to music or voice directly through your hearing aids.

Thoughts

The health technologies displayed at CES this year are designed to help us be active, healthy, and safe and provide the capability to monitor and assist those we love.

Did you see any extraordinary products at CES this year? Let me know what caught your eye.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

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.

All Things Health

Male hand holding stethoscope emerges from a laptop screen.I have blogged in the past on the Internet of Things (IoT) and also on health and technology. Today’s post is about the intersection of those two areas. It is about how the Internet of Things can keep us potentially safe and healthy.

Tracking Your Health

With the introduction of the Apple Watch yesterday, Apple also introduced ResearchKit, a follow on to HealthKit that was introduced last year. This allows you to participate in research studies through your iPhone. Hardware on the iPhone such as voice recorders or motion sensors can help you track steps taken or voice patterns that may detect the onset of Parkinson’s disease. This data can then be shared, with your permission, with researchers so they get a much larger global sampling for their studies. Of course, the data is also available to you as well so that you can monitor and be an advocate for your own health. Perhaps, you are not getting as much exercise as you need or perhaps there are early warning signs of a chronic disease that you need to pay attention to. It would be great to have a device that would detect the early signs of a stroke and alert you and others to the possibility—early detection and intervention is critical in this case.

Smart Health

In a recent article by Jane Sarasohn-Kahn, she highlights some devices in the intersection of Internet of Things and health monitoring. Among the devices she mentions are these:

  • Scales that monitor not only your weight but also your body composition. This is a great way to closely track your health day to day and over a long period.
  • Beds that monitor your heart rate, respiration rate, motion, and “bed presence” or how long you have been in bed can help you track your health through nonintrusive means. These measures can give you early warning signs of health issues.
  • Toilets that can monitor your weight, BMI, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels. This is important to help you understand when you are becoming pre-diabetic and need to change your diet or exercise routine.
  • Motion monitors such as FitBit or the new Apple Watch which remind us through a chime or haptic feedback when we have been sitting too long or have not completed our 10,000 steps for the day yet.
  • Smart lamps designed to change light intensity depending on the time of day and also monitor your sleep (or lack thereof) and remind you when it is time to retire by a friendly blink. These are connected to your home network and can be controlled through your smartphone.

Thoughts

Where some see opportunity and peace of mind, others see intrusiveness and privacy issues. We can now monitor very detailed health information and share that with our doctor or in the case of ResearchKit, researchers trying to develop a breakthrough to eradicate, or at least control common health issues. A blessing for some, a potential health information breach for others. I think that, by combining health monitoring and the Internet of Things, we can enjoy unobtrusive devices that let us be in charge of our own wellness and health. Let me know what you think. Do you use health monitoring devices? Do they work for you? I look forward to hearing about your experiences.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

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.

The Gamification of Nature

Two people find a cache in the forest.I recently helped judge a graduate poster session and was intrigued by a couple of posters highlighting research on how to use technology to engage youth and adults with nature. One of the research findings suggested that youth who use tablets to identify different plant species interact more deeply with nature. Another poster highlighted how creating games and challenges encouraged adults to get more involved with nature. This is the gamification of nature, as odd as that sounds. These got me to thinking about other ways that we can entice people to get outdoors for exercise and to discover nature.

Geocaching

The mild winter here in the Pacific Northwest has allowed me to get out and do more geocaching. This is an activity that started in Oregon and has spread worldwide. It is essentially hide and seek using geospatial coordinates and handheld GPS devices or smartphones. A cache can be as small as a button or as big as an ammunition box or larger. When someone places a cache, they publish the geographic location on geocaching.com for others to see. They may also publish clues, in case it is hidden in an obscure place. People seeking the cache can then pick up the coordinates from the web site and find it using their GPS device. This is an excellent way to get people outside—in urban areas and wilderness—to enjoy the sights and sounds of nature. I tried to find two just this morning and one was quick and easy, the other eludes me. Even in the attempt I got in a good hike, so I still came out a winner.

There’s An App For That

Author Richard Louv coined the term “nature deficit disorder” in his 2005 book Last Child In The Woods to describe our disconnect with nature. Louv argued that some behavioral issues may be caused by a decline in how much time youth spend outdoors. Others, rightly or wrongly, conclude that youth spend so much time with technology that there is no time to explore the outdoors. I am suggesting that the same technology that is blamed for creating “nature deficit disorder” can help draw youth and adults back into nature. The graduate students at the University of Oregon are working to make that a reality. One organization promoting this shift is Agents of Nature. In partnership with various schools and public lands agencies, they have created an app that requires players to identify things in nature in order to move ahead and gain points and position. This requires them to get outside and discover things and places they otherwise might never experience.

Thoughts

I am excited about the possibility of introducing people to nature through technology. This is a way to blend our need to connect with each other and with nature. What do you think? Do people need a reason to get outdoors? Is technology a barrier or can it be a catalyst? Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

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.

The Power of Information: Finding Relevancy in an Information Avalanche

Hand on digital matrix

I have written before about the power of information, but I am continually reminded of it as I watch world events unfold. We recently posted an article to Facebook contrasting soft power, meaning the power to change a position with information, and hard power, which uses guns as the means of persuasion. Using information as a soft power often results in a more permanent solution to the immediate problem. Using violence, or hard power, often begets violence and escalates conflict. With that in mind, I want to discuss a few examples where information truly is power.

The New Digital Age

In the 2013 book The New Digital Age, authors Google Chairman Eric Schmidt and Google executive Jared Cohen talk about a future where information will be used by peacemakers and terrorists alike. “The power of information is underrated,” says Schmidt. Their premise is that the use and dissemination of information (or disinformation) will be one of the new war fronts and the side that can deliver trusted information about situation will have the upper hand. Political regimes have physical power, but it is possible to overcome that with timely and persuasive information. Schmidt warns that there is a dangerous gap between the technical world and the geopolitical world. I believe that the gap is closing with the help of information and the Internet, even in countries that traditionally suppress technology and free speech. Information is political power.

Health Information

We have more health information than ever before. We have the opportunity to learn about our personal genetic makeup and understand our health risks before they become problems. We have unprecedented access to nutritional information that could help us to live healthier and longer lives. It is remarkable to me to think of the progress that we have made in combating diseases over the last 100 years, due in part to the timely information available to us all. Even new viruses are quickly isolated and contained, partly by sharing information. We have become empowered to be responsible for our own health and not rely solely on the medical community. Information is personal power.

Thoughts

Information is power. Our world of understanding has expanded since Gutenberg created the printing press in the 1400s and ushered in a new age of literacy and information sharing. Sometimes it feels like we have access to too much information, but if we can learn to glean the relevant and the useful points, it can help us personally and as world citizens. Have you been able to use information to make your life better or to help others? Let me know.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and professor of practice for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

Technology In Action—How Professional Sports Are Benefitting

I am always interested in where technology is making a difference in our jobs and in our lives. Lately my thoughts have turned to how technology has changed professional sports. In the U.S., we are heavy into football season and just winding down with baseball. Major league soccer and basketball will start within the next couple of months.

There have been many innovations in how sports are played, watched and officiated, some welcomed and some controversial. Some feel that innovations like instant replay slow down play on the field or court, but others tout the additional fairness and accuracy of officiating. Whatever your position, I think that technology in sports is here to stay and will increase in the future.

That Yellow Line

This is what originally caused me to ponder technology in sports. The trademarked “First and Ten Line” system by SportVision, launched in 1998, displayed a virtual line on a professional football broadcast to indicate the location of a first down. Over the years, other colored lines have been added to represent other things, such as the line of scrimmage. I turned to the very cool website HowStuffWorks.com to find out how it really works. It turns out that it takes four people, six computers, and a tractor trailer full of gear to paint one virtual line. They have to consider the position of all of the on-field cameras and track the movement (pan, zoom, fade) of each so that the line is in synch with the broadcast. The camera view can change at any moment and the virtual line needs to also change.  The size of the field and the slight curvature of the field (for rainwater run off) are factored in and the on-screen color pallet must be constantly recalculated so it is not painted over the top of a player or official and to adjust for changing weather and light conditions, like snow or darkness. These are very sophisticated algorithms that should make any technologist proud.

Hawk-Eye

Hawk-Eye is a ball tracking system first created by engineers in the UK in 2001 and used originally for cricket. It spread to tennis and European football and was used recently at Wimbledon to aid line judges in making calls. This product is mainly used in officiating but can also aid commentating and coaching. It employs sophisticated monitoring to track ball trajectory, impact, and landing.

Keeping Players Healthy

Technology in sports is increasingly being used to keep players healthy. Professional football and basketball teams, including the Dallas Cowboys and Mavericks, are using microchips worn under the jersey during practice to understand and limit injuries to muscles, ligaments, and tendons. They also help to refine performance by emitting real-time data on accelerations, decelerations, changes of direction, and jumping. This information can help a player understand whether they are favoring one side or the other and can be used to monitor a player in rehabilitation. Using GPS and accelerometers, teams can protect their players as well as seek a competitive edge through data collection and analysis.

Thoughts

These are just some of the ways that technology is being used in sports to enhance performance and entertainment. Many other professional and amateur athletes are using existing technology to track their personal statistics in the hope that the data will yield insights that will help them become the next champion.

Do you personally benefit from technology and data collection? How has it helped enhance your experience of participating in or watching sports? Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and professor of practice for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

shutterstock_63935509I am a confessed optimist. I am not a realist, nor am I even a plain optimist. I am a flaming optimist. The glass for me is not just half full; it is completely full. Always. I go into every situation with eyes wide open, and I always expect the outcome to be the best. The focus of this blog post is to share my experiences and to show that a positive attitude can have physical and mental health benefits.

Expect the Best

Optimism comes from the Latin word “optimus” meaning “best.” Optimists always expect the best in every situation. It does not necessarily mean that they are perfectionists and get upset when things don’t go well. On the contrary, they are able to deal with adversity objectively, knowing that “this too shall pass.” If you always expect the worst, you will often get the worst. Conversely, if you expect the best, you will receive the best. Some dismiss this as a mind trick, but it does work.

Practice Gratitude

This may seem trivial, but regular practice goes a long way towards developing a positive attitude and optimism. Often, we have a tendency to focus on the negative things in life, but I challenge you to find something, however small, that you are genuinely grateful for. My wife often asks me what color the sky is in my world. My answer is always the same, “It’s blue, it’s always blue!” Even when it is raining, I try to think about the benefits of rain rather than focusing on my own discomfort. (This is not always easy to do when it is pouring). Once you develop a strong position of gratitude, you can then pass it along to others to help them on their journey. This has benefits for you and for others. Optimism is contagious!

Health Benefits

According to a recent article from the Mayo Clinic, researchers are finding the following benefits attributed to optimism and a positive attitude:

  • Increased life span,
  • Lower rates of depression,
  • Lower levels of distress,
  • Greater resistance to the common cold,
  • Better psychological and physical well-being, and
  • Better coping skills during times of stress.

Researchers are finding that a positive attitude leads to better health, which leads to a more positive outlook on life. It is a reinforcing cycle!

Thoughts

Are you an optimist? If not, I would invite you to try it out and see if it doesn’t improve your outlook. Find one thing that you are grateful for and focus on it. Gradually add other things in your life that you are grateful for and soon you will be expecting positive things to come to you. If you are already an optimist, let me know what you do to keep a positive attitude. If you are just starting your journey towards optimism, let me know how it is going! By all means, pass along your positive attitude to others.

About Kelly BrownAuthor Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program . He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

Personal Health Monitoring

Doctor working at the hospital and using a smart phoneA number of years ago, I had an idea for a health monitoring device that would be embedded in your door frame. The idea was that you would go out the door in the morning and, as you passed over the threshold, you would be scanned and your vital statistics would be recorded and sent to you via e-mail. If anything were really amiss, the same e-mail would also go to your physician.

I think I was on to something but my vision has been surpassed by devices currently being developed and coming on to the market. Now, you have constant monitoring and constant feedback. It is no longer a single snapshot like my doorframe idea. In this post I would like to focus on technology that will help you get fit, stay fit, and be healthy.

Imec

Imec is a research firm based in Belgium. They are working on developing and commercializing nanotechnology that can be used in health monitoring. They are developing systems on a chip that will help you track your blood characteristics and transfer that information to an intuitive user interface on your smart phone. If you are concerned with the results, you can then share that information with your physician at the touch of a button. They are expanding their research and products to develop a body area network. This may well be the next evolution of the wide area network (WAN) and the local area network (LAN). Watch a great video showcasing their research.

Moticon

Moticon is a German firm that has developed a product that gathers information about your step, your gait, and your foot temperature via sensors in a shoe insole. The information can then be transferred via Bluetooth to a smartphone for analysis. While this is primarily targeted towards people recovering from a leg injury it can be helpful in monitoring stressors and body alignment for athletes, particularly runners.

Nuubo

Nuubo is a Spanish firm selling a small wearable device that provides a running electro cardiogram to help monitor your heart rhythms and other vitals. The data can be collected and assessed remotely via a smartphone or tablet. This is a great product for cardiac patients being treated off-site for heart conditions such as arrhythmia. It is also a great tool for athletes and trainers so they can understand the implications of peak and sustained performance.

Google Smart Contact Lens

Google is developing a contact lens that would monitor glucose level via tears. Once released as a product, this would be a welcome relief to those with diabetes that now monitor their blood sugar via a pin prick, sometimes multiple times a day. This is a great development and a unique use of technology to ease discomfort to those affected.

Climbax

Climbax is a new product out of the UK that is designed for monitoring performance of rock and ice climbers. These same products have been available for cyclists and runners for years but are new for climbers. The device consists of a pair of bracelets with embedded sensors. The bracelets are sealed to be impervious to water or chalk. When the climb is over, the athletes can then upload their climb to the Climbax website and store and analyze their performance. This will help them to adjust their methods and improve their climbing ability in the future. This product is just launching and is relying on Kickstarter funds to take the company into sustainable manufacturing.

Lumo Lift

Lumo Lift is a product from Lumo BodyTech that monitors your steps, mileage, and calories burned but even more importantly, it monitors your posture and gives you a gentle reminder, via vibration, if you slouch. It is a small, discreet monitor worn against your body via a magnetic clasp on your clothes that connects to a smartphone app. I like the steps and calorie monitoring, but I would hope that you would only need to be reminded about your posture for a limited time until it becomes second nature to stand and sit up straight. This product is just being introduced in a limited run.

My Thoughts

This is a very exciting time in personal health monitoring. Some of the products being introduced seem like technology in search of an application, but overall the new products appear to be thoughtful in the way they address a genuine need. Such products can be used by athletes and concerned consumers, but they can also be used as part of a remote monitoring solution for health care patients. I believe that the proliferation of new devices is due to new and lower cost sensors and also to inexpensive Bluetooth and cloud technologies for storing this new information. Once the data is collected, however, we are still going to need smart analysts and smart application designers who can synthesize the data and make it useable to effect new and healthier behavior.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.