The Quantified Self is a movement to incorporate technology into data acquisition on aspects of a person's daily life in terms of inputs (e.g. food consumed, quality of surrounding air), states (e.g. mood, arousal, blood oxygen levels), and performance (mental and physical). Such self-monitoring and self-sensing, which combines wearable sensors (EEG, ECG, video, etc.) and wearable computing, is also known as lifelogging. Other names for using self-tracking data to improve daily functioning are “self-tracking”, "auto-analytics", “body hacking” and “self-quantifying”.
The term "quantified self" appears to have been proposed by Wired Magazine editors Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly in 2007 as "a collaboration of users and tool makers who share an interest in self knowledge through self-tracking." In 2010, Wolf spoke about the movement at TED, and in May 2011, the first international conference was held in Mountain View, California.
Like any empirical study, the primary method is the collection and analysis of data. In many cases, data are collected automatically using wearable sensors. In other cases, data may be logged manually.
The data are typically analyzed using traditional techniques such as linear regression to establish correlations among the variables under investigation. As in every attempt to understand potentially high-dimensional data, visualization techniques can suggest hypotheses that may be tested more rigorously using formal methods. One simple example of a visualization method is to view the change in some variable – say weight in pounds – over time.
For those without formal training in statistics or programming, several websites offer convenient tools for aggregating data from multiple sources, as well as visualizing, and analyzing that data.
Applications of Quantified Self
A major application of quantified self has been in health and wellness improvement. Many devices and services help with tracking physical activity, caloric intake, sleep quality, posture, and other factors involved in personal well-being. Corporate wellness programs, for example, will often encourage some form of tracking. Genetic testing and other services have also become popular.
Quantified self is also being used to improve personal or professional productivity, with tools and services being used to help people keep track of what they do during the workday, where they spend their time, and who they interact with.
One other application has been in the field of education, with wearable devices being used in schools so that students can learn more about their own activities and related math and science.
Quantified Baby is a branch of the Quantified Self movement that is concerned with collecting extensive data on a baby's daily activities, and using this data to make inferences about behaviour and health. A number of software and hardware products exist to either assist data collection by the parent or collect data automatically for later analysis. Reactions to "Quantified Baby" are mixed.
Parents are often told by health professionals to record daily activities about their babies in the first few months, such as feeding times, sleeping times and nappy changes. This is useful for both the parent (used to maintain a schedule and ensure they remain organised) and for the health professional (to make sure the baby is on target and occasionally to assist in diagnosis). For quantified self, knowledge is power, and knowledge about oneself easily translates as a tool for self-improvement. The aim for many is to use this tracking to ultimately become better parents. Some parents use sleep trackers because they worry about sudden infant death syndrome.
A number of apps exist that have been made for parents wanting to track their baby's daily activities. The most frequently tracked metrics are feeding, sleeping and diaper changes. Mood, activity, medical appointments and milestones are also sometimes covered. Other apps are specifically made for breastfeeding mothers, or those who are pumping their milk to build up a supply for their baby.
Devices and services
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Notable self-quantification tools are listed below. Numerous other hardware devices and software are available, as a result of advances and cost reductions in sensor technology, mobile connectivity, and battery life.
- BodyMedia FIT
- Fitbit Tracker
- Jawbone UP
- Nike+ FuelBand
- Zephyr BioHarness
- AppFavorit.es – measures digital interactions with loved ones
- 23andMe – genetics
- Fitbit Aria scale
- MyFitnessPal – diet
- UBiome – personal human microbiome
- Withings body scale
- Seven UX principles for designing Quantified Self services by Paper, October 2013
- Quantified Self
- Quantified Self Boston
- Quantified Self Toronto
- Quantified Self India
- Fit, fit, hooray! – The Economist May 24, 2013
- Stephen Wolfram on Personal Analytics – By Antonio Regalado. MIT Technology Review May 8, 2013
- Gary, Wolf. "QS & The Macroscope". Retrieved 10 February 2013.
- Dorminey, Bruce (2012-05-31). "Tic-Toc-Trac: New Watch Gadget Measures Time Perception For The Self-Quantifying". Forbes.
- "Counting every moment". The Economist. Mar 3, 2012.
- Singer, Emily. "The Measured Life". MIT. Retrieved 2011-07-05.
- Wolf, Gary. "Quantified Self". Gary Wolf. Archived from the original on 2012-03-26. Retrieved 2012-03-26.
- "Quantified Self Blog, oldest entries". Archived from the original on 2012-03-26. Retrieved 2012-03-26.
- Wolf, Gary. "The quantified self". TED (conference). Retrieved 2012-03-26.
- "Invasion of the body hackers". Financial Times. 2011-06-10. Archived from the original on 2012-03-26.
- Hesse, Monica (September 9, 2008). "Bytes of Life". Washington Post. Retrieved 2012-03-26.
- Heussner, Ki Mae (11 July 2013). "The quantified baby: Do parents really need infant-ready sensor tech?". GigaOM. Retrieved 22 September 2013.
- Higginbotham, Stacy (18 April 2013). "Podcast: How the internet of things may make parents less worried but more neurotic". GigaOM. Retrieved 22 September 2013.
- Brooks, Ross (9 September 2013). "Baby Jumpsuit Reports Nighttime Activity Levels To Anxious Parents Baby Jumpsuit Reports Nighttime Activity Levels To Anxious Parents". PSFK. Retrieved 22 September 2013.
- "The Guide to Self-Tracking Tools". Quantified Self. Retrieved 2012-03-27.
- Panzarino, Matthew. "Lark expands from a sleep monitor to a full on coaching service". The Next Web. Retrieved 2012-04-20.