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Trends Snapshots 2017+


 
 

The following trends are a selection of carefully crafted inspirational narratives. Exploring how the interlinked macro trends presented over the last year will inform the short to mid-term future for People and organizations.

 

Internet of Things (The Death of the Hub)

 

 

 

The Internet of Things has been on just about everybody’s list for years. So why hasn’t it caught on? The issue lies in interoperability. In theory, the IoT is supposed to connect all our devices together, making them sing in a glorious technological harmony. Thing is, we’re not at that point yet — at least in a usable manner, and in a way that doesn’t make you want to pull your hair out.

 

We’ll use the smart home as an example here. Much of the work in the past several years has revolved around the idea of a “smart hub,” in layman’s terms a souped-up wireless router with extra communications technologies built in. But ask any smart home system owner, and they’ll tell you it’s not a perfect solution.

 

A multitude of wireless technologies now exist to serve your smart home needs — Zigbee, Z-Wave, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and more. And there’s more smart home platforms to consider than ever before too — Wink, SmartThings, Iris by Lowe’s, even systems from security providers like ADT and big brands like Comcast. While centralization in theory should make things easier, it’s made it worse.

 

Smart home tech may have finally broken through to the mainstream.

 

Some smart home gadgets won’t work with certain smart home platforms — for example, your Philips Hue lights won’t work with your Iris by Lowe’s system (likely a business decision as Lowe’s doesn’t carry the Hue product line). Plus if your smart hub goes down, your entire system typically goes with it.

 

Expect a refocus this year when it comes to smart homes. Wi-Fi is a tested and true wireless networking technology, and routers are serving up ever larger amounts of bandwidth, so there’s plenty of space to handle your connected home. Also, new smart home devices are choosing Wi-Fi to maximize compatibility.

 

Instead of using a centralized hub, device manufacturers will focus on interoperability between themselves. This might have the consequence of shrinking the number of directly compatible devices, but it may not matter. Ither technologies can take the place of the hub, and likely do a better job of it.

 

IFTTT can connect those devices in any way you see fit, and Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home can control them by voice. The hub just isn’t necessary anymore, and that might be a good thing.

 

 

AI and Automation Everywhere

 

Automation is nothing new — at least on the business side. Our experiences with automated technologies primarily comes in the form of those pesky automated customer service systems we’re forced to call every time we need help. But it’s only going to get more commonplace this year.

 

Automated customer service won’t go away, but it will get better. At the same time, online customer service will be automated as well, thanks to better AI and chatbots that understand context a whole lot better than ever before.

 

More and more jobs will also be automated — even journalist’s work on writing the news (don’t worry, we aren’t going anywhere). We’ll also see smart devices gain from increased automation, learning your patterns and preferences without you needing to tell them and making better and more accurate suggestions and recommendations.

 

Here’s one interesting area to watch: fast food. 2016 saw a lot of talk of removing the human component from food service; will self-serve kiosks make an appearance in the year ahead? On top of that, automated drone delivery should also see wider-scale testing by the end of the year — especially by Amazon.

 

Are there negatives? Of course. We’ve heard complaints for a long time about the lack of interpersonal communication these days. And jobs may be lost as a result of the move away from humans. No doubt, the discussion surrounding how far we’ll let automation run our lives will only get louder in the New Year.

 

The Rise of Synthetic Food


As the world gets more populated, and in turn our natural resources and our climate are stretched to the limit, how and what we eat will change as the year rolls on. The world needs to think of ways to feed itself, and the answer might be mixed into synthetic food.

 

Solyent is a high-profile example. While the nutritional powder has been around for just about two years, in 2016 it gained momentum. Soylent has all the nutrients the average person needs, but there’s one big problem: it’s kind of unappetizing.

 

The World Needs to Think of Ways to Feed Itself

 

That’s something scientists are working on. One possibility is Beyond Meat, a company that started to demo its pea protein, yeast extract, beet juice, and coconut oil burger-like substance late last year to the press; it’s available in select Whole Foods supermarkets right now. Another company, Impossible Foods, is working towards a similar goal — and you can grab its plant-based burger from New York City restaurant Momofoku Nishi for $13. Sure, you can tell it’s not the real thing, but both burgers have gotten surprisingly good reviews.

 

Others are working on growing foods, like eggs and meat, in laboratory environments. Consumers are increasingly pushing for more cruelty-free and environmentally friendly foods, and lab-grown food addresses that problem.

 

One thing is for certain: by the end of the New Year, your veggie burger should make its way out of the vegetarian aisle at the supermarket. Hopefully other synthetic foods will crop up too, answering the ever bigger problem of feeding the world, helping us eat healthier — and letting us enjoy guilt-free comfort food.
 
 

The Physical and Digital World Blur


 
 
Virtual reality was a big hit in 2016. But you can’t walk around the real world with a headset on. The dramatic rise and equally precipitous fall of Google Glass sites that walking around with space age glasses won’t work either.
 
Look for navigation services to get even more specific — maps in a store’s app, for example, to direct you to a specific aisle to find exactly what you’re looking for. So called “augmented reality,” where virtual objects and information are displayed on top of the physical world, will make its way to our phones. Search engines are already expanding on image search, allowing you to point your camera at something and search for information based on what the lens takes in.
 
And as Pokémon Go showed us in 2016, there’s a huge appetite for well-designed augmented reality games. While we can’t predict what game will get kids off the couch this coming summer, it wouldn’t be surprising if it comes in the mold of Pokémon Go.
 
 

 SELF-TRACKING: Real-Time Health + Human-Centric

 

Health Sensors and Quantified Self1

 

Smart living drives a better future, where business and people collaborate for mutual benefits. Real-time data will transform the traditional business model to one that delivers better services and customer experiences. Apple is changing self-measurement the way it changed music – with an entire Human-Centric platform and ecosystem for monitoring medicine, fitness and wellness. People want ‘intelligent’ options built in, as self-improvement boosts quality of life and wellbeing. There are currently 40,000+ health apps available and mHealth services and applications could be worth more than $11.5 billion globally in 2017.

 

NEW-MODELS

 

CIRCULAR ECONOMY: Green Growth + Sustainability

 

Today we consume 26 times more than we did 150 years ago. In this context, sustainability needs a serious make-over; only 28% of people know what terms like: ‘sustainable’, ‘responsible’, ‘eco friendly’ and ‘green’ really mean, and just 44% trust green claims from big brands. The Circular Economy is a vision to maximize resources and minimize waste to promote green growth, but to be successful you need a business case for sustainability. China has adopted the Circular Economy and its recycling industry is estimated to be worth $ 254 billion.

 

 

COLLABORATIVE CULTURE: Sharing Economy + Social Value

 

Collaborative Consumption changes how we consume, work, travel and learn. Just think of the success of AirBnB, Uber & Zipcar. Some say that Collaborative Consumption generates enormous social value, but our current systems do not measure value created – only value captured. While the 20th century focused on ownership, the 21st century is about access, with sharing, mobility and affinity networks becoming the norm. Seoul is the world’s first official Sharing Economy – 60% of Koreans own a smartphone – with the city utilizing Collaborative Culture as a civic and social problem-solving tool.

 

GoogleGlass

 

BETRAPRENEURSHIP: Disruptive Innovation + Female Power

 

The EU now promotes entrepreneurship as a career to encourage start-up communities that will contribute to Europe’s job creation, innovation and competitiveness. Betapreneurs are truly 21st-century professionals who operate through a process of trial and error to make disruptive innovation happen. Resilient, self-reliant, and extremely potent, they are crafting the future – working solo, in small teams, or within large companies. Currently, only 30% of European entrepreneurs are women, but by 2020 in advanced economies, 2 in 3 graduates will be female, so their contribution will change the landscape of entrepreneurship.

 

Augmented reality

 

LIFELONG LEARNING: Augmented Reality + Deep Learning

 

Currently, the role of higher education is a global discussion – one where learners, not institutions, are in charge of both the conversation and the demand for innovative thinking. Campus-Centric old school approaches must evolve and embrace Digital-Centric new school MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). Social structured learning is how to attract people to the rapidly growing flow of resources and create more opportunities for everyone. ‘Deep Learning’ – enabled by artificial neural networks and evolved ‘augmented reality’ – presents huge opportunities in everything from media and education to health, commerce and leisure.

 

social-alchemy13

 

CONSCIOUS CAPITALISM: Social Capital + Community

 

Hard data shows that, in the long run, conscious businesses outperform traditional ones by a wide margin. Brilliant business models are now driven by storytelling and Conscious Capitalism – leveraging networks to support local trade and create value and well-being simultaneously. Social capital is not just the sum of the institutions that underpin a society – it is the glue that holds them together. Community will drive brand experiences and foster a strong culture of innovation; almost 2/3 of people prefer to work for an organisation making a positive difference.

 

The Big ReThink Radical Openness

 

RADICAL OPENNESS: Building Bridges + Collaboration

 

Movements for freedom of information are exploding – affecting everything in society from how we do business to who we choose to govern us. A global survey of 97,000 people in 30 countries found that 48% would not even recommend the company they work for. A good online reputation is your most valuable currency and smart organizations build bridges rather than walls by embracing values of openness and collaboration. Globally, 65% of people believe transparent and honest business practices are key to corporate reputation and trust.

 

 

millennials

 

PURPOSE DRIVEN: Culture of Purpose + Inspired Action

 

When Millenials make career decisions they look to organizations with a clearly defined culture of purpose. This is not about allocating more money to CSR, but revisiting your underlying business principles to make sure they sustain your organization and benefit all stakeholders, including wider society. Great leaders inspire action and, as Simon Sinek reminds us: ‘If you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money. But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood and sweat and tears.’

 

 

 Revenue From Home Health Devices, Services to be $12.6B in 2018

By ADITI PAI
 
 
Global revenue for home healthcare devices and services will rise to $12.6 billion in 2018, up from $5.7 billion in 2013, according to a report from IHS Technology.

IHS divided the home health market into six segments: independent living services, consumer medical devices, telehealth, personal emergency response systems (PERS), wearable technologies, and health gaming.

 QS-spread
 
“Healthcare providers are focusing on patient centered care to increase the quality of medical treatment,” Roeen Roashan, medical devices and digital health analyst at IHS said in a statement. “By doing this, medical firms hope to attain lower healthcare expenditures during the lifetime of patients. Home health technologies will play an important role in the continuum of care and in the concept of constantly managing patients’ health.”

 

doctorofthefuture

 

IHS also added that many home health devices are converging. The research firm points out that some devices, like mPERS devices, are already integrating different features so that consumers get multiple uses out of the same product. Some integrations for a device could be telehealth capabilities, activity monitoring, or integrated heart rate sensors.

 

Patient Monitoring

AOL co-founder Steve Case also brought attention to this trend in December 2013. In a talk, Case pointed out that a number of digital health companies today are actually not true companies at all — they are “features”. He noted that this is typical for an emerging market, but the eventual winners will grow their startup quickly from developing features to real products to platforms. This “inevitable” evolution will be coming to digital health in the next five to 10 years, he said. He likened this situation to the early days of the PC when there were entire companies focused on developing printer driver software or word processors, but none of those companies are around today.


The other prominent trend that will come out of increased use of home health technologies is a growing amount of patient-generated data, which MobiHealthNews explored in a recent in-depth report.

A report from IHS predicted that downloads for sports and fitness apps would grow to 248 million in 2017 up from 156 million in 2012, a 60 percent rise.

 

 

How Quantified Self, mHealth and Wearable Technology Are Changing Pharma Marketing

By PIOTR WRZOSINSKI
 
 
Quantified Self, mHealth and wearable technology. While you could hear about those trends in the past, the tipping point has been reached at the CES 2014. What was supposed to be the future is our present much faster than industry expected. Enterprise market is again far behind consumers. Health care industry tethered by regulations just cannot catch-up quickly enough.

 

 

What is Quantified Self?     Who Wears Technology?     What is mHealth?

 

QUANTIFIED SELF (QS)

 
Quantified Self (QS) is a trend of personal data collection via technology. The idea is to acquire data on person’s state, actions and performance using wearable technology and/or mobile applications.
 
 

Track-Yourself-Subway-MapTrack Yourself Map of Quantified self apps by Rachelle DiGregorio

 

WEARABLE TECHNOLOGY

 

Wearable technology is a description of any electronics that one can wear. It may be something with a sensor for quantified self purposes, but it can be also a T-shirt with LEDs intended just to look nice. From quantified self perspective, wearable technology is a trend that enables the whole movement by devices that can capture personal data.

 
 
Fitbit Flex and Jawbone Up

Fitbit Flex and Jawbone Up – Wearable Fitness trackers (Photo credit: Gadgetmac)

 

mHEALTH

 

mHealth is a general term for usage of mobile devices (mobile phones, smartphones, tablet computers etc.) in connection to medicine or health care. mHealth includes providing information to the patients or HCPs, but also collecting patients data.
 

Is Quantified Self big and mature enough to have an impact on health care industry?

 

The topic is huge. On the Quantified Self Guide – a website that collects different Quantified Self applications, there are 505 different tools listed at the time of writing this article. Of those 65 are tagged with medicine and 124 with fitness category tag.

 

If you look around in the office of any healthcare corporation (or, even better, on the jogging path) in the developed world,  you will notice wearable sensors in form of bracelets, chest bands or small items in the shoes used by increasingly high population. Users of the smartphones install “measuring” applications on their devices.

   alivecor

 

What are the numbers? Runtastic, a mobile app dedicated to track running performance has recorded 60 million downloads worldwide and 25 million registered users on Runtastic.com.
 
Similarly targeted device and app Nike+ platform claims 18 million users. Fitbit.com, the website that allows to see the results of tracking with Fitbit range of devices according to Quantcast has around 2 million users from the U.S. only. Quantified Self is definitely mass market now and it will not fade away. Instead it seems it will get more devices and applications as the tech industry embraces it.

 

Quantified Self: Dangers versus Benefits

 

From the pharma marketer perspective quantified self may be even more disruptive than the raise of social media (which, by the way is still not accommodated properly). As it gives more knowledge to the user it takes away control from the HCPs. Fitness trackers are obviously beneficial as they encourage the best prevention against disease – exercise and movement. On the other hand the trend brings some risks with it.

 
Interpretation of the data gathered by the device or application, even if supported with some mHealth resource filled with scientifically proven knowledge may lead to wrong decisions.
 
Innocent life-logging app that counts calories intake may lead to starvation, or at least to non-balanced diet for some users who want to lose weight too quickly (not mentioning here eating disorders). A non-calibrated blood pressure and pulse tracker may put people with cardiovascular issues at risk (I cannot breath but the reader says I can still run…). 
 
The device alone can affect users health by allergy (that happened with Fitbit Force recently), heat, permanent exposure to radiation. There was also at least one occurrence when using activity tracking device, and competing for better score was connected with a tragic death of one too motivated biker.   In pharmaceutical industry there is a lot of pressure put on the patient data privacy.
 
Quantified self puts those data in open, sharing the very personal information on the activity publicly, sometimes without informing user about it. This was a real case when Fitbit.com allowed public to see users who were logging their 30 minutes very active sexual encounters.
 
What is fascinating in Quantified Self movement is how the application can change focus from empowering by giving the knowledge to the patient to enslaving by enforcing control over users behavior. In one of the quantified self business use cases, not related to health care, a QS device called Hitachi Business Microscope worn by office workers was mapping their communication patterns within organization, pinpointing unnecessary meetings, organization social graph and communication issues.  

 

If we take it to the field of pharma marketing, QS may be seen as a great tool to improve patient compliance or to provide personalized healthcare, but also as a menace of higher insurance rates for any misbehavior – be it sitting too long on the couch or having one drink too much.
 

Quantified Self and EHR, EMR and PHR Solutions

 

One of the promising features of the quantified self is possibility to include the data acquired by sensors directly into electronic health records systems (EHR). Electronic Health Record is not exactly what industry widely embraces as EMR – electronic medical record. Although the data gathered, stored and processed in EHR are more or less the same, the source is different.

 

EMR can include only data provided by medical institutions and healthcare professionals.

 
EHR is open to any source of data. It includes what can be gathered from EMR, but also accepts patient input, quantified self devices and applications feeds and other sources. A specific range of EHR, that includes only data provided and managed by the user (in this case – patient) is Personal Health Record (PHR).   The most renowned solutions of this kind are Google Health (decommissioned) andMicrosoft Health Vault, but there are also other providers.

 

healthvaultMicrosoft HealthVault – Example of PHR

 

This brings new opportunities as we get really Big Data in EHR, but also some risks. Data in EHR and PHR cannot be really trusted, as they come from not validated sources and can be contradictory.  The sampling (how often you take a data point) is not standardized and quality of the input is questionable. Nowadays, adoption of EHR and PHR is very limited, as is their functionality and usability. However with the growth of the quantified self we can expect rising importance of such hubs for the medical information.

 

Quantified Self and Regulatory Compliance: HIPAA and HITECH

 

Quantified self movement adoption is nowadays limited to developed nations, and the biggest market for those solutions is in the United States of America. There are two regulatory bodies in the US that overlook quantified self devices and applications. For non-medical use the main authority is FTC. Privacy and access to the health related data is regulated by HIPAA and HITECH regulations.

 
  HIPAA Compliance Checklist
 

  • Have you formally designated a person or position as your organization’s privacy and security officer?
  •  Do you have documented privacy and information security policies and procedures?
  •  Have they been reviewed and updated, where appropriate, in the last six months?
  •  Have the privacy and information security policies and procedures been communicated to all personnel, and made available for them to review at any time?
  •  Do you provide regular training and ongoing awareness communications for information security and privacy for all your workers?
  •  Have you done a formal information security risk assessment in the last 12 months?
  • Do you regularly make backups of business information, and have documented disaster recovery and business continuity plans?
  • Do you require all types of sensitive information, including personal information and health information, to be encrypted when it is sent through public networks and when it is stored on mobile computers and mobile storage devices?
  • Do you require information, in all forms, to be disposed of using secure methods?
  • Do you have a documented breach response and notification plan, and a team to support the plan?

 

 If you answered no to any of these questions you have gaps in your security fence.

 

 If you answered no to more than three you don’t have a security fence.

 

Quantified Self and Regulatory Compliance: FDA Guidance on Medical Mobile Applications

 

For medical mobile applications relevant authority is the FDA. The Agency considers mobile phone as a medical device as soon as it meets one of the following:

 

  • It works expressly for medical purposes and offers medical or health-related apps
  • It acts as an effective accessory or component to aid medical health

 
While assessing medical mobile applications the FDA applies the same risk-based approach as for other medical devices.  The guidance document  provides examples of how the FDA might regulate certain moderate-risk (Class II) and high-risk (Class III) mobile medical apps.
 
The guidance also provides examples of mobile apps that are not medical devices, mobile apps that the FDA intends to exercise enforcement discretion and mobile medical apps that the FDA will regulate in Appendix A, Appendix B and Appendix C.   For many mobile apps that meet the regulatory definition of a “device” but pose minimal risk to patients and consumers, the FDA will exercise enforcement discretion and will not expect manufacturers to submit premarket review applications or to register and list their apps with the FDA.
 
This includes mobile medical apps that:
 

  • Help patients/users self-manage their disease or condition without providing specific treatment suggestions;
  • Provide patients with simple tools to organize and track their health information;
  • Provide easy access to information related to health conditions or treatments;
  • Help patients document, show or communicate potential medical conditions to health care providers;
  • Automate simple tasks for health care providers;
  • Enable patients or providers to interact with Personal Health Records (PHR) or Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems.

 

Note, that PHR and EHR systems are not covered by the guidance on medical mobile applications. Here you can see the list of examples of mobile medical applications the FDA has cleared or approved. This is the list of examples of mobile medical applications for which the FDA will exercise enforcement discretion. Those applications may meet the definition of medical devices but they pose lower risk to the public in the Agency view.
 

Quantified Self: Issues to Resolve

 

Quantified self will gain more importance in healthcare industry. However, there are still some issues to be addressed. Before jumping on the bandwagon, consider the applications carefully.

 

Tracking versus Privacy

 

Regardless of Hi-Tech privacy consideration, The user and providing company have to be extremely careful about patient data privacy. It has to be absolutely clear to the patient and the organization, that all data are owned by the user of the application and not the company. Users must provide direct consent to aggregate, store, process or use the data in any way.

 

Data Reliability

 

Your quantified self  application or device will gather data in connection to patients health. Therefore it is important to achieve possibly high level of accuracy, and ensure integrity of this data. It should be also clearly stated what are limitations of the sensors and technology used.

 
 Virtual Quantified Self

Fallback in Case of Failure

 

You need to make sure that in case of failure or loss of the device, patient will still be able to be treated or diagnosed with fallback solution.

 

Interoperability

 

If your application allows data exchange with EMR, make sure it uses open standards, so that it can be used regardless of the health care provider chosen by the patient. This applies also to interoperability with PHR solutions.

 

Clear Guidance for Interpretation of the Data

 

Make sure that the data gathered and provided to the patient are not subject to misinterpretation. There should be clear explanation of the result provided, and if not possible the instruction should point patient to the HCP who will be able to interpret the data. Even the best result on the application should not encourage patient to be not compliant with the treatment ordered by his doctor.

 

Co-operation with HCPs

 

If every patient comes to his GP with gigabytes of life-logging data, there is no time for proper diagnosis. Valuable information will be hidden in the noise like a needle in a haystack. Not to mention different UIs of the applications and general annoyance with non-standard requests coming out of the blue. To avoid this you need to provide HCPs with clear instruction what to look for and make sure they will know it at the first glance. Think about separate dashboard for the physician or even better – distribute the app through the trained HCPs.

 

An example of Quantified Self in Pharma marketing is Eli Lilly’s Talking Progress (this name applies for UK & Ireland markets) is an application available for iOS and Android, that was presented by Claire Perrin on the recent Social Media in the Pharmaceutical Industry conference in London.

 

Talking Progress is dedicated for adults suffering from depression. Using this app patient can record his/her mood to produce progress charts which can track the recovery and help inform discussions with the doctor. It is extremely important, as one of the symptoms of depression is lack of focus and gaps in the memory.

 
Talking-Progress

Talking Progress – Eli Lilly & Company Quantified Self mHealth App Screenshots

 

The app also contains useful hints and tips about lifestyle changes as well as information on causes of depression and treatments.
 

Talking Progress Features:

 

  • Educational information about depression
  • Mood Diary
  • Note pages
  • Healthy living advice
  • Medicine reminder alarm

 
Together with an app Lilly provides a booklet for the patient and small information desk stand for the HCPs. Embedding quantified self elements (diary and note pages) with mHealth features (educational information, lifestyle advice and compliance reminder) makes this app a perfect companion for patients suffering depression. Providing HCPs with the information pack (they are supposed to “prescribe” an app) guarantees that the data gathered via the app will be used and understood by the doctor.
 

Quantified Self in Pharma Marketing – an Opportunity for Everyone

 

It looks like the quantified self movement will stay with us for longer. Lilly’s example described above shows that properly used it may be beneficial for all – patients, HCPs and pharmaceutical industry. We can without doubt add payers to the list. Correctly applied quantified self is great way for prevention via changing lifestyle habits, increasing disease awareness and improving patient’s adherence to the prescribed treatment. Will we use this opportunity? Quantified self may save lives and money. It seems that even regulatory bodies are up to date with the trend, so the only thing missing is pharma marketers involvement. Do you plan to include quantified self and mHealth elements in your brand strategy?

 

 

YOU ARE YOUR DATA: The Scary Future of the Quantified Self Movement

By MICHAEL CARNEY
 

Data

 

Few if any consumers who fell behind on their credit card payments in the early 2000s thought that half a decade later employers would use their credit report to determine their job worthiness. Few avid social media users must have realized that insurance companies, the IRS, law enforcement, and credit agencies would soon use their their data to investigate fraud, determine creditworthiness, and monitor other potentially illegal activity. History suggests they should have.

 
This pattern is repeating itself, with countless consumers today casually sharing highly personal health data through wearable computing hardware, cloud-based quantified self platforms, and even retail loyalty programs without so much as a thought to the potential implications. My argument isn’t one against the quantified self movement. But if history is any guide naive, blind participation without considering the implications of your data being recorded and shared with third parties is reckless.
 
As we document and share more of where we go, what we do, who we spend time with, what we eat, what we buy, how hard we exert ourselves, and so on, we create more data that companies can and will use to evaluate our worthiness – or lack thereof – for their products, services, and opportunities. For those of us who don’t measure up compared to the rest of the population, the outcome won’t be pretty.
 
It will also be our own fault. Consumers are signing up to collect and share personal data at an alarming rate via sleep monitors, pedometers and activity trackers, dietary logs, brainwave monitors, grocery and restaurant loyalty cards, credit cards, Foursquare and Facebook check-ins, and photo geo-tagging, among other means. As insurers, lenders, and others attempt to manage risk, they will inevitably turn alternative data sources to round out the picture of each consumer applicant – in fact, they already are.
 
According to a sales rep for a Midwest data co-location and analytics startup who asked to remain anonymous, regional hospitals, insurers, and grocery retailers are already investigating ways to work together to translate consumer purchase data into health risk profiling insights. Kevin Pledge, CEO of underwriting-technology consultancy Insight Decision Solutions told the Economist last year that he has forgone the use of supermarket loyalty-cards and begun paying cash for his burgers to avoid this very type of profiling. The same article mentions a life-settlements firm declining to purchase an insurance policy based on social media activity that contradicted the supposed poor health of the policy-holder.

 

These are far from the only example of companies reaching further into our personal data – Consumer Reports has a rundown of many others – but they should be enough to make us all rethink that package of bacon, those dozen Krispy Kremes, or those Marlboros. One day, the same analysis is likely to be applied to how often we exercise, the length and quality of sleep we get, our eating habits, and possibly even the health of our sex lives.
 
CVS, for example, has started to require its employees to submit their weight, body fat, glucose levels, and other vitals monthly or pay a fine to cover increased health insurance premiums. If that data was available for the majority of its employees via a quantified self company (or several), CVS and other employers might not even have to ask – and the seemingly fit employee with a secret pound of bacon a day habit may never know why his health insurance premiums are double those of co-workers.
 
For the last year, State Farm Insurance has been taking a similar approach by offering auto insurance customers discounts for installing real-time monitoring devices into their vehicles coupled with safe driving. Again, if a real-time location smartphone app – or GPS and accelerometer enabled wristband or glasses – is already tracking this data, the insurance carriers might skip the asking, and the discount, and go straight to the database to pass judgment.
 
One of the most frightening companies in the entire sector is LexisNexis, whose ambition, if I were to paraphrase it, is to have a comprehensive record of every piece of available information on every person in the world – including their current and past residence, spending history, banking information, health information, etc., after scary, etc. And they’re not as far away from this goal as you might think.
 
Perhaps most troubling was the 2009 merger between VeriChip and Steel Vault (now PositiveID), which combined the first ever human-implantable RFID microchip and the credit-scoring and identity-theft-protection website NationalCreditReport.com. We haven’t heard much from the company since and its website indicates that PositiveID has shifted its focus toward medical applications, but the concept behind the merger remains frightening yet entirely possible.
 
Many expect the government to protect consumers from this type of potential privacy invasions, but the legislature has demonstrated a pattern of ignoring the ethics of bleeding edge technological issues until the line has been crossed, and then typically bungling things badly on the first few attempts, before, in some cases, arriving at a generally-tenable solution. Peer-to-peer file-sharing, net neutrality, software patents, stem cell research, and the recent SOPA, CIPA debates are all areas where Congress has appeared badly out of step with the world of technology. As such, it’s foolish to leave such matters in the hands of the government.
 

Really, it all comes down to each individual protecting his own data by virtue of the Terms of Service, Terms of Use, and Privacy Policies that he agrees to with each application. In general, the hardware manufacturers and service providers in the quantified self-space seem to have taken a fairly consumer-friendly stance initially (see select highlights below), but it’s not unheard of for company’s privacy policies and terms of use to change – see Instagram.

 

Also, it’s rare to see a pitch from quantified self startup that doesn’t point to data monetization as part of its long term business roadmap. As consumers grow more comfortable with the idea of sharing personal information online, it’s likely these ethical boundaries will be eased.
 
It’s not only just the first tier company that has the potential to share consumer data, but every dashboard, analytics platform, gamification service, social sharing tool, and other related product that is granted access to the underlying service. Your personal data security is only as strong as the weakest link in your quantified self-ecosystem.
 
 

It’s easy to come off sounding paranoid, and many would argue that the value received from quantified self-devices and services justifies the risk. But it’s not those who consciously make that decision I’m worried about. It’s those who buy a Jawbone Up because it’s sold at the Apple Store then connect it to several Web apps because their trainer recommends them without considering long-term implications. Data is powerful, and just as it has the power to enhance our lives, in the wrong hands it can also harm us.

 

Below are select excerpts from the privacy policies of several popular quantified self platforms

 
Jawbone’s Up reads:
 

We may share your Information with third parties to provide services on our behalf such as to process payments, or to store information collected through our site, app, and services. We may share information with a parent company, subsidiaries, joint ventures, or other companies under common control with us. We may share your personal information for the purposes of a business deal (or negotiation of a business deal) involving sale or transfer of all or a part of our business or assets. These deals can include any merger, financing, acquisition, or bankruptcy transaction or proceeding. We may disclose your personal information to (a) comply with relevant laws, regulartory (sic) requirements and to respond to lawful requests, court orders, and legal process…Even though we have taken steps to protect your personal information, you should know that neither we nor any company can fully eliminate security risks.

 

Nike’s Digital Privacy Policy reads:
 

We may transfer your information to NIKE Family service providers to conduct our business. For example, they may handle credit card processing, shipping, data management, email distribution, market research, information analysis, and promotions management. We may also share your information to administer features (e.g. music download, race registration, or workout routine)…Information that is publicly shared may be used by Nike for promotional purposes….However, like other companies, NIKE cannot guarantee 100% the security or confidentiality of the information you provide to us.

 

FitBit’s Privacy Policy reads:
 

Fitbit may disclose non-personally identifiable aggregated user data, such as aggregated gender, age, height, weight, and usage data gathered from Fitbit devices (without the inclusion of a user’s name or other identifying information) to:

  • Organizations approved by Fitbit that conduct consumer research into health and wellness;
  • Users of the Service for purposes of comparison of their personal health and wellness situation relative to the broader community; and
  • Advertisers and other third parties for their marketing and promotional purposes.

 

WellnessFX’s Privacy Policy reads:
 

We share your information with third parties when we believe the sharing is permitted by you, reasonably necessary to offer our services, or when legally required to do so. For example, we may disclose certain Member Information, Health Provider Information and Visitor Information:

  • To third party vendors who help us provide the Service or the Site or who provide additional goods and services through the Site, including without limitation, testing laboratories, phlebotomists, billing providers and benefits administrators;

 

RunKeeper’s Privacy Policy reads:
 

There are certain circumstances in which we may share your Personal Data with certain third parties without further notice to you, including as set forth below:

  • Business Transfers: As we develop our business, we might sell or buy businesses or assets. In the event of a sale, merger, reorganization, dissolution or similar event relating to all or a portion of our business or assets, Personal Data may be part of the transferred assets.
  • Service Providers, Agents and Related Third Parties: We sometimes hire other companies to perform certain business-related functions. Examples include mailing information, maintaining databases and processing payments. When we employ another company to perform a function of this nature, we may need to provide them with access to certain Personal Data. However, we only provide them with the information that they need to perform their specific function, and these third party service providers will only use your Personal Data to perform the services requested by us.
  • Legal Requirements: We may also disclose your Personal Data if required to do so by law or in the good faith belief that such action is necessary to (i) comply with a legal obligation, (ii) protect and defend our rights or property, (iii) act in urgent circumstances to protect the personal safety of users of the Services or the public, or (iv) protect against legal liability.

 
Safeway’s loyalty program Privacy Policy reads:
 

Safeway Club Card information and other personal information may be used to help make Safeway’s products, services and programs more useful to its customers. Additionally, Safeway may use personal information to provide you with newsletters, articles, product or service alerts, new product or service announcements, saving awards, event invitations, personally tailored coupons, program and promotional information and offers, and other information, which may be provided to Safeway by other companies.

 


 

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