Big Data + Mobile + Sensors + Visualization + Gamification = Quantified Self
by @ClintonBon – Clinton Bonner
If you’ve yet to dive into material and begin to understand the impact of what is called the quantified self, we suggest you do. This movement is about to get huge as the sheer volume of those classifying themselves as self-quantifiers is doubling annually. As barriers to quantified self fall – via ever smaller sensors, ever smarter data and ever more passive ways to collect and analyze the data – the continuation of individuals into the greater movement accelerates. If your world is technology and you believe in the consumerization of IT, understand now that quantified self is about to jettison the niche realm and rightfully proclaim the position of next.
If you are unfamiliar with the quantified self, we recommend this previous article that defined the movement, the technologies at play and the potential impact on individuals and society. Here is a snippet from the linked article:
In its most concise form, self quantification is the tracking of daily activities through technologies, delivering back to the user some “performance” analytics. The data and metrics help the user alter a behavior in order to self-improve. The soon to be assuaged behavior can be hyper-specific, like wanting to drive your car in the most efficient manner or it can be much more broad involving myriad health conditions and goals you are attempting to reach.
On 3/21, we had the privilege of interviewing and filming three unique companies all based in and around the Cambridge, MA area. Coming later this year, the TopCoder Innovation Series (our unique video series focusing on innovation technologies and techniques) will spotlight the 3 companies – Zeo, InsideTracker and Affectiva – their role in the overall quantified self space and some of the amazing and important work they are embarking on. This hot-spot (Cambridge, MA area) of amazing technology minds is really the perfect geographic location for this movement to take hold. Think about the biggest trends in technology at the moment. Terms like Big Data, mobile UI, data visualization and others are sure to come to mind. It is no coincidence that the quantified self movement is an aggregation of today’s most buzzed about technologies and at the center of quantified self is out and out value creation for individual end users. The movement represents a game-changing shift in how individuals – not multi-billion dollar corporations, but individuals – create & digest data in order to affect personal change. Again, quantified self will soon move from niche to next. Let’s examine 5 pillars of the movement and how they tie directly to quantified self value creation.
The 5 Pillars of Quantified Self
Here’s a super simple graphic that showcases the 5 pillars. Let’s start dissecting each with a look at how Big Data plays into quantified self.
Big Data – The mitochondria of the quantified self movement
“Data is the new oil” is a quote we’ve seen bandied about of late. Data is the power-source behind this movement. Individuals are already creating tremendous amounts of data, far exceeding the market’s current ability to create value from it all. What is about to change, is that individuals are about to gain the power of digesting their own data creation in incredibly compelling ways. The core of this movement is individual empowerment through understanding. Data powers that understanding and taking it one step further, advanced Big Data & machine learning algorithms are the mechanism(s) to create value from it all. The value is then delivered to an end user utilizing gamification, visualization and creative mobile UI.
A significant catalyst of all this neo-data creation are hyper-specific sensors showing up in everything from clothing (wearable devices) to interactive billboards. Sensors are capturing data at an incredible pace. If you think of the “Front End of Innovation” as ideation, concepts and rapid prototyping, think of sensor technologies as the front end of quantified self. The future of sensors is evident. They are getting smaller, being bundled into singular devices (you can guess which one) and are increasingly becoming ever more accurate in what it is they are set to measure.
Data Visualization – Seeing is Understanding
There is a reason people like infographics. There is a reason Pinterest and Instagram have exploded. People prefer graphics and visuals to text, it’s the reason I created that “simple” graphic above to showcase the 5 pillars! Visualization of data is a key component to value delivery in quantified self. It allows for pattern recognition and is a primary catalyst that will assuage an end user to alter their behavior. In short, visualizing the data in a compelling manner allows individuals to understand the impact of their decisions like never before. It is incredibly important to this movement. Still not convinced? Watch this TED Talk – The Beauty of Data Visualization.
Gamification’s New Role to Play
You may have had your fill of “all things gamified” in 2011 and early 2012, but I’ve got news for you, gamification is just getting going. It’s not about useless digital flare that would make the manager of “Chotchkie’s” proud, it is evolving into real-world qualifications and measurement where a gamified approach helps to increase uptake, keep users engaged and provide a competition platform for the most dedicated users who simply enjoy pairing their numbers versus others or against their personal best. Gamification plays neatly into visualization as many of the digital assets created to visualize impact have a game element innately baked in. It is a mechanism that when done properly, has huge impacts on the end user.
Mobile – The Linchpin
This one is last on purpose and there are 2 very important ways mobile creates value in quantified self. First, the aforementioned sensor technologies are quickly moving into the mobile device. Star Trek Tricorders aren’t here yet… but, they are coming. The railroad tracks for the 3.0 are already laid, it’s in your pocket or currently in your hand, it is your mobile device. Beyond these amazing sensors, the mobile & tablet UI’s that are being created are ultimately where value is being delivered to the end user in quantified self. All things we’ve talked about; the sensors that feed the data & algorithms that power recommendations, the gamified elements beautifully visualized, it all feeds into how the end user digests the information and that is happening on the mobile & tablet device. Will this evolve further, perhaps into “Google Goggles” and the like? Of course, but for now the device to focus on is the one in your pocket.
A great source of Quantified Self Content can be enjoyed at QuantifiedSelf.com
Coming over the next few weeks and months, the TopCoder Blog will do a deep dive into the 3 companies mentioned earlier – Zeo, InsideTracker and Affectiva. We will discuss their unique offerings, the current state of quantified self and the impact that is yet to come in this emerging tech environment that puts the power directly into the hands of the individual. There is a reason quantified self is comprised of the biggest tech trends and it’s important to now recognize that what is now niche will be dominating industries and sectors in short order. We humbly suggest you subscribe to both the TopCoder Blog (top left) and our YouTube Channel to follow these compelling stories and more.