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APPLE, GOOGLE INTEL & SAMSUNG in Behavioral Health? Part I

appleIncreasingly known as the “quantified self” the movement toward gathering one’s physiological data is becoming big business. It not only touches behavioral health, but is headed directly toward it. Physiological data are already being gathered by a variety of devices, with capabilities that range from sleep monitoring to cardio – pulmonary tracking and weight, galvanic skin response, nutritional intake, amounts and types of activity, such a walking or running, etc. For an early but still relevant visual explanation of the power of such devices, see the related 2010 Ted Talk, addressing the “quantified self.”

Are APPLE, GOOGLE INTEL, and SAMSUNG Setting the Stage for Behavioral Health via Smart Device and the “Quantified Self?”

If you’ve been following the news lately, you’ve also seen that Apple has recently unveiled the Healthkit, a toolkit to foster the development of new apps to aid in the collection and analysis of  physiological data. That data will be collected by sensors embedded in wearable devices, examples of which have bee available in the marketplace for years in the form of sleep and exercise monitors, such as Fitbit. Clothing with sensors has been available since the late 90’s, when products such as the Lifeshirt were made available to special populations, such as firefighters. Soon, such sensors will be worn under the skin.

To better understand what’s happening in this next generation of sensor-based “apps,” visit some of the product pages currently available from a number of leading manufacturers of these wearable devices:

Also, consider this recent post by Mobile Commerce News:

At the moment, according to the senior vice president of software engineering at Apple, Craig Federighi, all of the health information that people tracked “lives in silos”. He explained that “You can’t get a single comprehensive picture.”

One of the goals then, is to integrate the information available through wearable technology and make it available directly to the consumer, as well as others who stand to benefit from the mass accumulation and analysis of this data. Known as “Big Data,” or informatics in the more scientific circles, behavioral informatics is of particular interest to those of us in the behavioral sciences. 

We now are seeing a rapid expansion of these early forages with wearable devices into the emotional and behavioral realms. Insomnia was a good starting place. Much more is to come. The data collected is to be tailored to the needs and marketplaces for consumers directly, health care clinicians who wish to improve care and access more people and decrease costs (Health Care Reform’s “Triple Aim”) and the world at large as represented by marketing and other such groups, who seek to better understand the psyche of the consumer. 

Worldwide, omnipresent, interdisciplinary and now creating devices that attach to our bodies, technology developers march on. Apple recently opened a discussion on the new features of the Healthkit software in San Francisco, with thousands of different developers. Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. made a similar announcement about creating SAMI (the Samsung Architectural Multimodal Interactions), to be used as a mobile health data storage project.

Even WebMD is getting into the behavioral market. “WebMD’s Healthy Target empowers consumers to make behavioral changes that can improve their physical and mental health,” said Dr. Michael Smith, Chief Medical Editor at WebMD. “To achieve successful, sustainable behavioral change, consumers must learn how to track and manage the factors that contribute to healthy living.”

What will be the role of the treating behavioral professional in this brave new world? 

See the next part of this three-part series here: APPLE, GOOGLE INTEL & SAMSUNG in Behavioral Health? Part II  and Part III

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