Rise of the technobores

Fitbit Force
Pictured: Fitbit Force

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25 March 2014 | 0

They look like us – only with a better body mass index. They talk like us – until conversation turns to pulse rates, blood pressure and sleep. They dress like us – save for a telltale Nike or Fitbit band. They even have the same embarrassing dependence on GPS – but only for plotting and timing their daily 5km run. This isn’t the common fitness enthusiast, this is a new breed of data-driven ubermensch, insufferable for their sharing of every detail of their measurable lives. They are the technobores and we are all at risk.

The term ‘quantified self’ was coined in 2007 by Gavin Wolf and Kevin Kelly in Wired to cover the collection of information about every conceivable physical variable, from food intake and air quality to more ephemeral states like mood. The idea of being able to track one’s lifestyle via personal metrics has obvious benefits for personal fitness and medical professionals.

It’s also easily monetised. For $49.95 a year, Fitbit’s premium cloud-based software offering includes a virtual personal trainer, weekly stats, blood pressure, glucose and sleep tracking and includes personal bests and benchmarks. And (groan) the results are all shareable to Facebook and Twitter. There are plenty of offenders I could name, from Strava Run (where you compete against other users) and Nike+ to Zombies, Run!, and some Android phones from HTC and Samsung come with a fitness app as standard.

This year, however, the promise of smartwatches like the Pebble Steel, Galaxy Gear and the Google/Motorola Mobility collaboration Moto 360 make it easier, almost fashionable, to manage a constant stream of information but there remains one holdout that could be the difference between widespread acceptance of lifelogging apps.

Medical applications
According to reports this week, the next version of Apple’s iOS will include a feature called Healthbook. Analogous to the useful, if underused, Passbook, Healthbook is expected to adopt a similar user interface based on cards in a wallet that card be swiped through to find different pieces of information. Passbook comes with a set of apps specifically designed for it from the likes of British Airways, Hotels.com and Eventbrite. This makes sense for people looking to track specific medical conditions as well as their workouts, making sure they have exactly the information they need without being overladen with superfluous data. The applications for sufferers of diabetes or ensuring compliance with medication would benefit patients and families.

Part of the success of Healthbook – and any such app – will rely on how it integrated with peripherals. With Apple we know its next must have piece of kit will be a smartwatch. According to reports, the iWatch (for want of an official name) will have the ability to monitor heart rate and blood pressure, immediately putting it on a par with market leaders.

Being Apple, how it fits into Cupertino’s ecosystem will be pivotal to Healthbook’s broad adoption. Should the iWatch connect with users as easily as it should with othr iOS devices then people will take to Healthbook as just another Apple app. Without a successful iWatch, Healthbook will flounder.

In the meantime we should enjoy the relative quiet before the smartwatch/wearable tech revolution’s first major contribution turns us all into Technobores. We’ll all look great but who wants to sound like a statistician in their spare time?

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