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Big Data in Your Blood

By QUENTIN HARDY
September 7, 2012, 10:37 am "Stretchable electronics" will be able to measure heart rate, brain activity, body temperature and hydration levels.“Stretchable electronics” will be able measure heart rate, brain activity, body temperature hydration levels.

Very soon, we will see inside ourselves like never before, with wearable, even internal , sensors that monitor even our most intimate biological processes. It is likely happen even before we figure out etiquette laws around sharing this knowledge.

Already products like Nike+ FuelBand the Fitbit wireless monitor track our daily activity, taking note of our steps calories burned. idea is help meet an exercise regimen, perhaps lose some weight. real-world results are uneven. For sure, though, people are building up big individual databases about themselves over increasingly long periods of time. So are companies that sell these products, which store that data.

That is barely start. Later this year, Boston-based company called MC10 will offer first of several “stretchable electronics” products that can be put on things like shirts shoes, worn as temporary tattoos or installed in body. These will be capable of measuring not just heart rate, company says, but brain activity, body temperature hydration levels. Another company, called Proteus, will begin pilot program in Britain for “Digital Health Feedback System” that combines both wearable technologies microchips size of sand grain that ride pill right through you. Powered by your stomach fluids, it emits signal picked up by an external sensor, capturing vital data. Another firm, Sano Intelligence, is looking at micro needle sensors on skin patches as way of deriving continuous information about bloodstream.

Make no mistake about these companies’ ambitions. “Ultimately, we see ourselves as part of healthcare ecosystem,” Amar Kendale, MC10’s VP of market strategy development, said in an e-mail. In this future, he wrote, “data will need be shared seamlessly between customers, providers, payers in order reduce heathcare costs simultaneously deliver best possible care.” Proteus hopes use anonymized data from its customers understand health patterns over an entire population, presumably revolutionize medicine.

Those are not just lofty goals; they make lot of sense. If this kind of information exists for lot of people, it is arguably folly not look for larger trends patterns. not just in things like your electrolyte count, because overlays of age, educational level, geography other demographic factors could yield valuable insights. essence of Big Data age is diversity of data sets combined in novel ways.

What is missing is much of sense of what this is worth, what it may cost, the terms under which we’ll turn our data into product. Nike Fitbit already log lot of personal data, it is not clear what, if anything, they plan do with it.

Nike acknowledged an e-mail asking for details about its plans, but did not get back after that. software license for Nike+ does say that “Nike+ Product Software may include software that collects information about how you use your Nike+ Product,” but has no further details about what this means. Fitbit did not respond e-mails.

Proteus says its customers will own their data may share it, but must also grant company permission use it for product development the cultivation of its data sets. As Mr. Kendale stated, MC10 sees data sharing between people companies as something of necessity.

For those of you troubled by Facebook claiming right know whether you like cats when you sign up, this is probably significantly bigger deal. Others may not care, or even see themselves as actors in global project understand ourselves as never before. What may be troubling all, however, is haphazard way these new behaviors will be captured determined. There are likely be different strategies depending on company, country of use whether product is looking as something regulated, like drug, or open, like heart rate.

Those legal corporate distinctions, of course, were all developed in world where we weren’t able see so much of each other, or deduce one behavior by crunching data from several other sources.

There are also movements use this data in entirely new ways, for patient-generated medical research. Linda Avey, who co-founded personal genetics company 23andMe is now working on start-up called Curious, which should be live by middle of next year. Her idea is get people with difficult pin down conditions like chronic fatigue, lupus or fibromyalgia share information about themselves. This could include biological data from devices, but also things like how well they slept, what they ate when they got pain. Collectively, this could lead evidence about how behavior biology conjure these states.

“All of devices that are coming on market will shuffle their data into different environments,” she said. “They are starting realize that they can’t just be keeper for that.” She hopes companies will allow for common sharing of individual data, leading a kind of open source branch of medicine. So far, she said, few if any have committed that.

A version of this article appears in print on 09/10/2012, on page B4 of NewYork edition with headline: Digital View Of Your Health, Likely Be Shared.

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