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Confluence: The Connected Human
Tery Spataro   Mar 14, 2014   Ethical Technology  

My past finally catches up to my future self. I’ve been around the collection, gathering, analysis and usage of data since 1986. In 1999, I was invited to the SIME conference in Stockholm.  It was an impressive event that provided simulating and thought-provoking ideas about new technologies.  At that time, these technologies were Bluetooth, wireless and smart phones…

Two-thirds of the way through the conference, there was a pause to talk about what we had learned.  I painted an image of what I gathered the future would look like...

“My refrigerator lets my smart-phone know I’m out of milk and my car responds by mapping the nearest store.  When I arrive at the store it’s not milk waiting to be picked up -- it’s soy milk.  Believe it or not, my toilet had a say in the matter.” - Tery Spataro, SIME Stockholm, 1999. 

Today we are experiencing how these devices can help us improve our quality of life and our health.

To learn what this means, I called on an expert user’s opinion on what it is like be a connected human. I had a delightful and inspiring conversation with Chris Dancy, the most connected human on earth.  Chris sees the future in terms of human data.  He was super-polite and very gracious with his time and thoughts. 

Chris monitors everything about himself, including food, moods, exercise, sleep and environment. His vast and unique mind unearths insights from different variables in the data he collects on himself.  I see Chris's mind like an OLAP cube, able to discover insights though correlations of different variables. I was most amazed at his discovery that his driving speed correlated to the temperature of his environment. The future of data is in human data!

His concern is that we confuse the volume of information with the speed technological change. He advises that we should focus on exploring our own “Inner Net.” This self discovery could lead to greater insights into our health and well being – could you imagine less disease?

Let’s take a step back in history to look at who we were and to identify the devices we used to understand what our behavior was during these times and the context. By mapping this out, we can see why the device explosion is occurring now.

What we have had are dumb devices.  They provide data, but no direction. Framework for human needs: tools to gather data, data that provides solutions, tools that track data, data that provides results.

Before we are ready to emerge in what devices can do for our health and well-being, we must connect to our data.

Which is why I'm so excited about CES - As you can see, CES 2014 is a market indicator with so much excitement for new digital health products.

I got to try so many of these new devices.  There are devices to help gather our health data and devices that will help with the analysis of that data. I am especially fond of Om signal clothing, which has built-in sensors that help you manage stress and allow you to share your stress reports with your family. Sensoria sports bra has a sensor to manage heart rate. You can outfit yourself from head toe in these devices. 

There were even devices for your pets to monitor their biology and emotions.

3 findings is uncovered from CES 2014:

Becoming a connected human will require a shift in our behavior with devices. BJ Fogg points out that to create a persuasive behavior you have to have 3 components: trigger, motivation and ability. BJ says you need these components to happen at the same time. I may need to manage my weight but will I step on the scale? If I step on the scale, will I use the results to change my behavior?

‚ÄčAs we become more engaged and emerged with our devices what are the effects?

Cautionary Tale!  We will need to be careful regarding our exploration of our health data collection and health devices, and guard against abuse and misuse that will threaten innovation.

There is so much to consider in the creation of these new technologies, I narrow it down to three basic guidelines.

The health devices that we use to gather, share, engage and measure all must be low friction. A scale that tells me what to eat, provides practical guidance to my exercise needs, and adds me to a social network support group is more beneficial than merely providing my weight. 

We must explore our inner self to understand what our needs will be for data gathering, analysis, and sharing – the ability to personalize needs is a must.

If we want to be better, fast, smarter and healthier, then self-health correcting technologies need to be mindful. Technology needs to be sensitive and present to provide human connection. Mindful technology will lead to more self awareness.

Devices should be here to help make our lives better but not take over our lives.

My philosophy centers on the confluence of humans with technology and the environment. This means that we peacefully co-exist with the environment and technology, and work on improving the human condition through technology while preserving the environment and what makes us human. 

- Tery Spataro


Tery Spataro

Tery Spataro  a former IEET Advisory Board member, is a pioneer in digital technology; a marketer, visionary, futurist, researcher, investor, author and professor. She oversees research for a innovative product design firm, teaches business and marketing at Regis University. You can follow Tery on Twitter.

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