Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo

 

Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

{ action.text }

Accurately predicting the meaning of changes in communication patterns is likely to be challenge. For example, the cell-phone profile of a person who stays home and stops calling friends for several days in order to meet a work deadline would be similar to that of someone who stays in bed and stops answering the phone because his depression is getting worse. But Singh says the algorithms underlying the app are flexible and can be tuned to be more or less sensitive to behavior changes, and that user feedback will also improve them. “With more data and users, we expect to get better at predictions,” says Madan.

The initial release of DailyData gives only the user access to his or her results. But, Madan says, eventually the alerts could go to family members or caregivers, who could then intervene if the patient seems to be on a downward spiral.

Apps of this type may worry privacy advocates. Revelations about how Apple and Google use location data caused a public outcry last month. But in the case of DailyData, the benefit to the user may outweigh privacy concerns. Continuous monitoring via mobile phone could give both patients and their physicians better insight into health problems, says Deborah Estrin, founding director of the Center for Embedded Networked Sensing at the University of California, Los Angeles. A doctor treating a patient for depression, for example, typically only gets to see the patient for a few minutes once a week or once a month, and the patient’s mood that day could be influenced by something that happened that morning. “You have the opportunity to look more objectively at what the past two weeks or months have been like,” says Estrin. “It’s so powerful to leverage the technology that people carry around willingly. People are already harvesting this type of information to serve marketing,” she says. “Why not use it to help serve people themselves?”

Joseph Kvedar, director of the Center for Connected Health at Harvard Medical School, says that if such an app is to be adopted widely, it’s essential that it collect the data automatically. “You have to make it really easy,” he says. “Require even the least little step and people lose interest.”

On the flip side, a growing body of research suggests that giving people information on their behavior can benefit their health. “When we measure something and share it back with individual, it raises awareness in a special way,” says Kvedar. “It gives insight into how lifestyle is connected to health in a way you can’t get without quantification.”

Ginger.io plans to market its software to health-care providers, pharmaceutical companies, health insurers, large employers, and chronic-patient communities. These groups would offer the app to patients or employees, and would in turn get a set of aggregate statistics about and trends in the health and behavior of these groups. “For a [health-care] provider or academic researchers, this might help them understand how people behave when they’re symptomatic,” says Madan. A pharmaceutical company might gain insight into links between behavior and medication and health, such as whether physically active people get better faster. “These are all novel data that they never had access to before,” says Madan.

The company is working with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital on a pilot study of patients with inflammatory bowel disorder and Crohn’s disease, both painful intestinal conditions. Physicians will try to determine whether behavior changes prior to a flare-up. 


2 comments. Share your thoughts »

Credit: Ginger.io

Tagged: Computing, Biomedicine, apps, mobile phones, cell phones, health, GPS, The Measured Life, self tracking

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives

Close

Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me