I was interviewed by Susan Young, the new biomedicine editor of Technology Review this week, ostensibly about a proposed Mini Cooper model that includes integrated heart rate and other sensors. Susan recently took over for Emily Singer who wrote numerous articles on the Quantified Self and related topics.
Susan also inteviewed Dr. Leslie Saxon MD of USC School of Medicine and the Center for Body Computing. Dr. Saxon thinks this sensor-laden car would be a great idea, one that would take people with no interest in self-tracking and “get them addicted to their data.”
I take a slightly more pragmatic approach, IMHO. What we are finding in our medically-supervised quant coaching program at My Doctor Medical Group in San Francisco, is that people who have real problems they want to solve or understand are much more likely to follow through with self tracking projects, and more likely to look at and reflect on the data they generate. The data itself turns out to not be very intrinsically motivating to change behavior, despite the claims of technology fanbois without much live experience working with real people.
So it’s possible that a sensor-laden car would meet the needs of certain people’s personal experiments, if that data were relevant to their particular narrative, and if they were actually reviewing the data frequently in order to continually revise their story and work toward achieving some goal or discovery.
For example, someone trying to debug their stress-induced hypertension might really benefit from seeing how their blood pressure and heart rate (or better yet, heart rate variability) behaves under the varied conditions and stressors of driving. And then see if and how they could modify that blood pressure response using paced breathing techniques, beta blockers, or cognitive-behavioral exercises.
Of course, this would be much more useful if the sensor platform had an open API so the data could flow into the self-tracker’s own personal datastore for analysis alongside other data sources. Alas, this is often not the case with proprietary platforms (such as BMW’s) where the company wants to control your data.
The full article is here: Car Checks Your Heart Rate While You Drive, in Technology Review 10/03/2012 (http://www NULL.technologyreview NULL.com/news/429428/car-checks-your-heart-rate-while-you-drive/)