Swiss Army knives and crude oil

19 Jul 2012 2min read

A colleague tipped us off about a new device today: a smartphone that houses sensors for seven vital health tests. I’ve not had one in my hands and I’m not sure how well it works, but I think it’s interesting for several reasons.

Hands up those of you with no mobile phone! That’s the obvious reason. Smartphones are ubiquitous in many regions, familiar bits of kit with familiar device languages and interfaces. There’s likely to be much less of a cognitive burden using something like this.

Another reason I like this is it wraps up so much in one tidy package; there’s much less of a lifestyle burden. Not all, but many of its users will be increasingly elderly with multiple comorbidities: diabetes, hypertension, renal and cardiovascular issues. Would you want to carry a separate device to monitor each and every single one of these? Of course, the reality is that these comorbidities will continue to be treated by separate devices, but I think we should challenge that, too, and in time we will.

The last thing is another challenge: how do we help people own and exploit their data? This phone will encourage people to test, record and share data way more frequently than hitherto. Whose data is that, and of what value is it and to whom? I can see great value for the phone’s operator but I’d say the data is the person’s, of some value individually but of immense value collectively. The data is perhaps the most interesting aspect of this device but we’re told “data is the new oil”, the value is in the refining. How do we share that opportunity and value so it’s fair and appropriate?

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