Long gone are the times when we measured fitness routine progress or results by how we felt or how we looked in the mirror. Today, as wearable technology has flooded the fitness market, we now have almost unlimited access to a wealth of health data. For example, smartwatches inform you about the step count, and the quality of your sleep while monitoring your heart rate and other wellness metrics along the way. Smart gear and apparel, embedded with sensors and trackers, will record your body’s temperature and electromagnetic pulses to evaluate your muscle engagement.
The data collected with these gadgets will then be transferred to your smartphone app via Bluetooth. So, you can assess and track your progress and, if needed, adjust your fitness routine to better suit your goals and help you achieve the desired results. It is hardly a surprise that the wearables technology business is an 80 billion dollar a year industry. And it continues to evolve rapidly. The current trends indicate that smart sensors, embedded into fitness apparel, are moving from passive data collectors to action igniters. Consider these yoga pants. A pair comes with built-in haptic vibration at the hips, knees, and ankles to encourage you to move and or hold a position. The developers claim it teaches you the correct form during yoga practice. With the addition of their yoga app, you don’t even need a yoga instructor!
Our fitness journeys and activities have never been so “supervised,” and life improvement solutions have never been delivered in such an unprecedented way. But where do we draw the line?
Without a doubt, utilizing and sharing big data collected with smart fitness trackers can be immensely beneficial. For instance, this company shares fitness data (with user permission) with city planners to encourage infrastructure development with built-in fitness ecosystems. Such initiatives have paved the way to healthier, and arguably happier cities. Another way that fitness data can help to improve lives is through health care. Imagine transforming the wellness statistics collected with your smartwatch or smart gear into a comprehensive digital portrait of your health. Doctors can use this footprint in their diagnosis and customized treatment plans. At the same time, insurance companies will use the information to provide customers with better premiums and discounts based on a healthy lifestyle.
Here is the dark side. Tracking your every move and every breath (quite literally) may not be so great. And here is why. Amid rapid technological advancement in the fitness industry, some Silicon Valley companies have turned to tracking tools to “improve” their employees’ health and lifestyle choices, which seems more like surveillance. Real-time physical movement monitoring at work (via smartphone or “strongly encouraged” fitness device), shows companies how often a worker visits places like the cafeteria, restroom, gym or lounge areas. Collecting such data has helped them to identify those employees who are more mobile and those who are sedentary. Outside of the workplace, wearable technology users consistently supply app developers with loads of health data, which in turn is frequently sold to data brokers (and back to employers). For example, GPS data can point out places of interest, choice of eateries, hobbies, and more. Apply analytics to this data, and now a company can quickly identify workers who are at a higher risk of disease due to their lifestyle. Now, if your productivity and performance suffer because of the monitored choices you make daily, will the company you work for be forgiving of that? And in this day-and-age, where our digital footprints paint a rich picture of our regular activities and habits, making privacy ever so elusive, can we protect our data? Finally, to which extent you would allow information or data about someone else affect your decisions concerning them, whether personal or professional?
Jensen, Marcus. “Big Data and Fitness: The Present and the Future – DZone Big Data.” Dzone.com, DZone, 15 Dec. 2016, dzone.com/articles/big-data-and-fitness-the-present-and-the-future.
Leetaru, Kalev. “From Company Doctors To Fitness Trackers And Big Data.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 21 Aug. 2019, www.forbes.com/sites/kalevleetaru/2019/08/21/from-company-doctors-to-fitness-trackers-and-big-data/#789d72876556.
Sysoev, Alexy. “Health and Fitness E-Gear Come With Security Risks: Articles: Big Data.” Articles | Big Data | Innovation Enterprise, 12 Feb. 2020, channels.theinnovationenterprise.com/articles/health-and-fitness-e-gear-brings-security-risks-in-post-new-year-days.