Quantified John

Open access to human-centric datasets from the Quantified Self movement will change how we live.

Recent innovation in sensors, smartphones and connected devices enable users to measure an unprecedented amount of information about how humans interact with and live in the world. As this data continues to become valuable and actionable, a new layer of data revolution will emerge.

In most of the current ‘Quantified Self‘ products, the most compelling use cases revolve around health and fitness. They all solve for problems that exist within their communities and have a critical mass of users who are willing to try new things. Soon, similar use cases will evolve within parallel verticals like eco-consciousness and lifelong learning.

My Measurement Framework
My “Quantified Me” exists through 5 main interfaces: Fitocracy, The Eatery, RunKeeper,Withings and Fitbit. Each attempts to measure a specific part of my activity, either implicitly through sensors or explicitly through an interface. The goal of measurement in each context is to help you move towards certain milestones or achievements. This could be getting to your ideal weight or setting new weightlifting max’s.

Some of the applications (RunKeeper, Withings, Fitbit) have API’s that allow me to connect one product to another. Fitbit integrates with Withings to more accurately measure calories burned, while Fitocracy lets me get Points for Runkeeper runs. There is a certian data economy that is starting to emerge but hasn’t quite hit ubiquity (more on this later).

User-Input Data // Fitocracy + Eatery
All about experience and interaction design.

Fitocracy has made the process of tracking your time in the gym painless. Their core interaction of enabling its users to intuitively track their workout is near-perfect: it just makes sense. It allows me to slowly make progress on lifting heavier weights and seeing how other people structure their workouts.

The Eatery lets users take pictures of their food and get crowdsourced reviews of how “fit or fat” it is. The app is absolutely beautiful and the food rating process is awesome. The Eatery does a great job at making me feel like I’m eating healthy without having to pretend to count calories.

Movement Tracking // Runkeeper and Fitbit
App-level and hardware-level tracking of movement through space.

Runkeeper uses my phone’s GPS to track my runs and cycling. It gives me updates on how far I’ve gone and for how long through my headphones so I know if I’m on pace. I can export my Activities to view on a Map or share with friends.

I wear my Fitbit on my belt loop and it keeps track of how many steps I take and how many flights of stairs I climb every day. Based on my weight, it can also estimate how many calories I burn throughout the day. The simple fact of being conscious of how much you’re walking and moving every day makes me want to do it more.

Lagging Indicators // Withings
Connected scale that measures bodyweight and lean mass over time.

The Withings Scale is WiFi connected and uploads my weight, body mass and lean mass measurements everytime I use it. Over time, I can see how things are tracking and if concerted efforts to eat healthy actually do anything. This data is great to have but doesn’t quite inform action moreso than it justifies things you’ve already done. If it were combined with The Eatery, though, it could be awesome.

Open My Data and Let’s Dig Around
Each of these products provides a novel way of capturing data about different pieces of my active life. From the food that I eat to the walks I take and weights I lift, I am able to understand my progress within each measurement. In itself, though, most of the data isn’t actionable. Knowing that I walked 8,000 steps and got ‘Fit’ food ratings is good to know but doesn’t really inform any decisions that I will make.

Each of these companies is building an extremely interesting and novel dataset that is ripe for innovation. As soon as they are all comfortable opening access to their APIs (Fitocracy and The Eatery, specifically) things will start to evolve. Data mashups will unlock new levels of insights to drive healthier living — the Quantified Self movement will start to make sense to the masses…

I wish I could access my data to share with everyone. Where are the API’s for this stuff? If I could take my data and post it for people to find interesting things, I would happily make it open to anyone to evaluate.

Data is a Game
The simple act of being able to measure physical interactions gives people a whole new way of optimizing for outcomes. The fact that I know I will be held liable for my (in)activity wants me to be more active and I think a lot of other people think that way, too. I see measurement as the first step in building engaging user experiences that matter. If a product can provide a tangible benefit to the people who use it, they will succeed.

Written by

Data-informed dreamer. Building Plato, a a software-enabled design agency for startups. Formerly of Pinterest, URX, Google, Yahoo and UCLA.

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