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Monday / November 18.
HomeTechnologyWe need some balance in mHealth – and I don’t mean pilates.

We need some balance in mHealth – and I don’t mean pilates.

Just over a week into the new year, one day in to CES and already I’m feeling guilty. I need to get mHealthed up. Shed some Christmad punds. Reform myself, detox, work harder, exercise more. Ohh, if only there were some technology innovations, some brilliant new gadgets that would monitor my activity, analyse me, poke and guide me. Beacuase if there was, I’d be as fit as a thoroughbred race-horse in no time. Obviously though, I can’t be expected to do any of this on my own. I need guidance and motivation, and therein lies the premise for the mHealth industry. Not dissimilar to the the diet industry, for decades as consumers we’ve being coyly willing, to believe that there is a silver bullet that will cure all (inactivity) ills. Alas, not, who would have thought that it comes down to commitment and effort to get fit and stay as healthy as you can. This compliant delusion does give us a glipmse into how our world is adapting its frailty, fallibility and delusion to take advantage of tech as a new crutch.

We will certainly start to see more and more people using mHealth devices. The big winner I think will be the mid-prixed devices for $80 to $100. Products like the Jawbone Up and the Fitbit. Why mid-price? There’s a few reasons. The first reason: economics – consumers are more likely to get involved with mHealth at a moderate purchase price. Spend a weeks pay on a watch that you may not use? No. Buy a cheap pedometer? Unlikely. But $100 purchase that is neatly integrated with your PC, Mac or Smartphone. I think so. Secondly, there’s an element of the fitness mentality creeping in to the buying of one of these gadgets. A little pain – let’s not do a marathon on the first day – so a moderate purchase can be lived with, and also might motivate us to actually get out and run. In time, if we like the gadget, if we stick with the New Year program we might upgrade to a bells and whistles device, but for a start, wearable devices, wrist bands, shoe sensors, they are winner in this burgeoning market.

mHealth (mobile health) is a term used for the practice of medicine and public health, supported by mobile devices. The term is most commonly used in reference to using mobile communication devices, such as smartphones, sensor and tablets for health services and information, but also to affect emotional states.

So you’re all kitted out with new sensor shoes, new wistband, smart phone app, a whole bunch of Facebook friends willing, possibly even chanting for your shrinkage to perfection- it’s almost spiritual at this point. Add a wifi scales, a toaster with wifi that it shouts “Oi, Fatty!” so the neighbours can hear if you aren’t using wholegrain.

“You could add clever cutlery in the form of fork that essentially says stop, by vibrating if you’re eating too quickly. Useful to prevent the hiccups, as your fellow diners back away from you with a look of fear and disgust, as you have a table setting resembling the aftermath of a Roman feast laid for peckish centurions back from the Iberian peninsula. If all that isn’t a hint, Mr Clever Fork is just what you need, you slob.”

Maybe install a fridge that reads RFID tags on your food, and rats you out to your spouse/doctor/health insurer. You cannot fail to reach Magnificent on the fitness god & goddess scale. Incredible. We have now, or are about to, fix the entire obesity problem. Governments will cut taxes, health services globally will close hospitals and there will be just one nutritionist student in college, on the entire planet, next year. Technology has yet again, saved the world. And you were there, looking lean and slightly smug in Lycra, to see it.

Time for some balance I think, and not the pilates type. wifi scales from companies likeFrench maker Withings, pro appeal watches from Garmin, apps and websites from the Facebook of fitness, RunKeeper. It all connects, potentially, neatly together. More sophisticated oxygen, vital sign and health monitors are the really interesting element of this industry. Patients at risk from manageble illness or ailments should be the focus. Conencting home based monitors and networks to medical centres and medical staff is the real key. If we can improve the quality of life for those who would have previously been home-bound, then, technology can really make a differenc in health. Hype aside, the internet of everything is coming; we will be more connected, more informed and hopefully more aware, Awareness of our own health, and cognisance of those who battle illness everyday is important. With growing awareness comes responsibility and when we accept that responsibility as a society, we can use this new technology to improve not just world fitness, but world health.

External links & references

  1. What is mHealth? @ Wikipedia
  2. BBC report from 2010
  3. 10 key stats on mHealth: Axial
  4. Clinical mobility
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Andy O'Donoghue talks about technology, some say, too much.

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