Wednesday, May 01, 2013

The Quantified Self & Application Scale

As part part of the self-quantification (QS) movement, there would appear to be a pairing of measuring device & associated application for every aspect of personal health - diet, weight, prescription medicine, fitness, blood, breathing, GI tract health, etc.

Devices measure the various X (some passively, some actively), and the associated application, once installed onto a phone or tablet, displays and analyzes the collected data for the user - presumably to help them make health decisions in the direction of longer life (and so longer duration customer for the application provider).

When each health aspect has its own device, and each device has its own native application - the user will necessarily bear the burden of installing, managing, and authenticating each native application.

That may be an acceptable burden for somebody with 2-3 separate devices (and so 2-3 native applications). But what of the neurotic hypochondriacs? Or the paranoid new parents obsessing over each cough and sniffle of their new baby - both of whom might have > 10 health monitoring applications?

This hilites a key problem with native applications - their lifecycle (discover, install, login, use, manage, remove) doesn't scale particularly well for the user. App stores make the first two trivially easy (arguably too easy), but dont help much with the steps that follow.

The problem will only get worse when it's not only personal health monitoring devices that we will want to be able to interact with, but everything. When my fridge, washing machine, dishwasher, printer, garage door opener, mailbox, and TV remote are all collecting data and clamoring for my attention to view, analyze, and act on that data - do I want a separate native application for each of them? No I do not. 

If only there were an alternative to the native application model - one where application functionality can be downloaded in real-time, rather than a priori installed.....

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