Since I’ve returned from the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show, I’ve read dozens of articles written about connected health technology and the great impact the proliferation of related gadgets and applications may cause in our lives. Notably, Susan Young’s article, “Glut of Gadgets Track Your Body’s Vital Signs,” confirms what I witnessed at CES: hundreds, if not thousands of different devices and software applications that monitor and record personal health and fitness data will hit the market in the coming years.
These devices and applications will do everything from monitoring the number of steps you take in a day to tracking your sleep patterns, heart rate, fitness activities, body temperature, calories, and dozens of other relevant metrics that may provide you a better understanding of your health and fitness. For proponents and observers of the Quantified Self movement, these are exciting times as all of this data will certainly help us better track our health. However, after 30 years of racing my bicycle and watching athletes and coaches use data to design training regimens and plan for competitions, I believe that the current proliferation of health and fitness applications may in fact bring something even bigger to the fore: a launch pad for dozens of new professions.
In today’s health and fitness workforce there are doctors, nurses, nutritionists, physiologists, weight management consultants, behavioral scientists, and personal trainers among others, but that landscape is quickly evolving. Soon we will have personal data accountants, human data industry analysts, nutrition data architects, health data doctors, human health statisticians, and health data computer scientists. This will be the result of the unprecedented amount of personal health data that is about to hit the market and while many of the current and traditional health and fitness focused professions can provide counsel based upon some of this information, the wealth and complexity of the new datasets will require experts with strong math, statistical, and computer science skills to evaluate and make sense of all of the new data.
The U.S may lead the way in the collection of the data because of widespread smartphone adoption and device adoption, but ultimately, we could miss out on the true benefit in the long run.
Why? Because our education system is falling behind the rest of the world rapidly in math and science. This flood of new devices and applications could provide our nation huge benefits, namely a better understanding of and improvement of the overall health of our citizens, but only if we know how to understand what this data means. Other countries will likely obtain those benefits more quickly, however, because of the well-educated workforce in place and the large number of those qualified for these new professions.
The new and ready workforce will provide these countries a massive worldwide advantage in growing their economies. Indeed, we’re now witnessing not only a technological phenomenon that will change the way we look at our health and wellness, but also has the great potential to impact the world economy.
The world’s most important resource is human potential and the health and wellness of our nations will define all future generations and world economies. It is critical that we recognize this and invest heavily in our citizens but also in the entire infrastructure to develop this new industry.