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Personal Health Tracking: Devices & Experience in Quantified Self (QS) Lifelogging

I'm one of the several thousand organized in about 100 meetup groups who are quantifying there selves, mostly for non-narcissist, self health and wellness benefit, for an overview, see  As part of this a number of physicians have created groups who are willing to track to understand various anonomolies e.g. diabetes, heart disease.

As a trackee with a SF physican managed by his quantifying coach, my goal is to understand the behavior of my heart, having had two (heart attacks, bypasses, and pacemakers). In doing this, I hope to understand the conditions for the onset of angina pain at various times when I exert myself too rapidly.

Here are the devices I use and parameters tracked in m first two weeks, ended 1 November 2012:

  1. BodyTrack site operated at Carnegie Mellon University that holds my data from various other sites. This provides many tracks that I use to impute cause and effect. Download for free, coupling it to BodyMedia, Zeo, and Mymee
  2. BodyMedia armband that captures energy expenditure via heatfux, steps, lying/sleeping, plus manual entry of other parameters that you pay to upload. This is a must have device.
  3. Fitbit provides a useful approximation to BodyMedia but at no monthly cost.
  4. Zeo sleep tracker (I have one, but am not bothering with it since BodyMedia captures sleep
  5. SweetWaterHRV aka SweetBeat heart rate variability (HRV). Requires iStuff (not Mac on tiny iPods)  Intersting stress metric--so just try it.
  6. Mymee -- a tool that allows manual entry of particular data about my exercises that BodyTrack plots: weight, food input, exercise (walk, swim, row), angina pain level, shortness of breath, HRV, and overall daily.
  7. Other metrics or monitors that may be useful: weight, blood pressure, lung capacity (spirometer), consumer oriented 24 x 7 heart rate monitor aka Holter monitor,  glucose

What I have learned about my heart in conjunction with my doctors:

  1. Its complicated
  2. Skipping a day of Lipitor and other medication does affect me. Maybe missing beta blockers does, but I need to run an experiment.
  3. Exercise is more important than I thought--its critical. E.g. after one terrble day with pain, ending with swimming, the next 5 days starting with a record breaking swim were pain free. Conclusion I have to exercise every day.  Swimming is best for me because of the constant, forced, breathing regime.
  4. NOT SO FAST. After those 5 great days, the next couple of days I had angina pains. Was it a warmer day, or is it lung overload, the phlegm coming from pollen or what?
  5. My Sydney doctor says I can skip one day a week--she also told me to always walk with nitro--something that I don't want to admit to because it is just one step closer to EOL.
  6. Conclusions: Exercise 6 days a week, use something to reduce or eliminate anything that could be affecting breathing (Lung Flute helps), and check the weather (cold weather in SF is heavy, causes a breathing problem as does, humidity etc.) and then there's diet and digestion .
  7. My heart seems to be on that knife edge that can go either way when weather, sleep, exercise history, diet, etc. tips the balance.
  8. Its complicated

Lifelogging Taxonomy: Extreme lifelogging by 2020

I'm fond of building taxonomies to aid understanding where a field or things are and where progress is likely to lead.  The need to define "extreme lifelogging" came up in the summer of 2009 when speaking to the New Scientist. I claim that everyone with a computer isdoing lifelogging to some degree, creating memories--provided they aren't deleting.   I then claimed that in 10 years, continuous life recording of everything being seen would be common in 2020 --this is extreme lifelogging

Since we started using or wearing SenseCams in 2003, when someone sees me for the first time, they invariably ask: "Where's the camera that's recording everything?"  Thus the discussion in 2009 prompted the definition of the recording of everything we ever see as Extreme Lifelogging (almost).  When we also capture sound i.e. conversations, it is even more extreme. 

In defining extreme lifelogging it is critical to show the various degrees and facets of capturing everything aka lifelogging. 

So hear's verson 0.9 of a taxonomy... in some sense ordered by degree:

Implicit, light lifeloggingstore and retain everything your computer has seen for record keeping, recall

Professional lifelogging --maintaince of corporate and personal communication and records, etc.

Lifelong learned logging retention of books, magazines and journals read, courses taken

Personal and Family lifelogging

Social lifelogging communication, ideas, etc. are spread everywhere e.g. FB, LinkedIn, Yammer

Health-Wellness lifelogging. Quantitative Self Movement is aimed at constant tracking of health bits

Transcribing all notes from conversations & thoughts lifelogging - Thad Starner c1983-

Extreme lifelogging everything you see and hear. 
Lifelog Tracks aka lifetrack aka lifetrek

After-life Lifelogging  Only your avatar knows. TBD

Institutional lifelogging  e.g. LoC, British Library

Property lifelogging… a catalog of life's stuff



Memoto lifelogging wearable camera with GPS

Memeto now has a functional prototype of their wearable lifelogging camera. It takes pictures on a timer (2 per minute), and includes the location of the picture via GPS. Memoto follows in the footsteps of SenseCam, but its size makes it much less of an "I'm a huge geek" fashion statement, while the location is absolutely critical aspect of one's memory (and is vital for finding things).

Memeto fits GPS, 8GB of flash memory, 5 megapixel resolution, 2 days of battery life, and a micro-USB port all in its 36x36x9mm package. They will roll out smartphone software as well as web-based storage.


Autographer: the latest incarnation of the SenseCam

The SenseCam, a wearable automatic camera invented by Lyndsay Williams when she was at MSR Cambridge, was a big factor in MyLifeBits and helped us form many of the insights for Your Life, Uploaded. It made its commerical debut as the Vicon Revue with very few changes to its design and targeted at memory loss patients. Now OMG has updated its look and function for consumers and released it as the Autographer.

Like the original SenseCam, it has a fixed-focus, fish-eye lens to capture your experience without worrying much about where it is pointed. The autographers has these sensors: 

  • a light level sensor, so that when you change scene, such as walking through a doorway, it can take a picture of the new room
  • a passive infrared sensor so that person (a warm body) can trigger a picture
  • an accelerometer, so that when it jiggles it can avoid taking a blurry picture (and motion can indicate photo opportunities)
  • magnetomorer: detects changes in direction, like a compass does
  • temperature: temperature can signal a change worth snapping a picture (and enables a record of your environment)
  • GPS: to record your location

Pictures are taken with a 5 megapixel low light sensor, which hopefully makes it much better at indoor photography than the old SenseCam. It has 8GB or storage, bluetooth and both desktop and smartphone apps to handle all the pictures and sensor values.



FitBit releases Zip activity tracker

The Zip is the latest version of FitBit's activity tracking wearable device. Like their original Ultra and the newer One, it uses an accelerometer to track your activity: steps, distance, and calories burned. It syncs information wirelessly to your computer and to some smart phones. Unlike the Ulta and One, it is not intended for sleep tracking.

Gizmodo has a review of the Zip

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