For some Americans, the approach of summer means it's time to shed the winter weight and focus on personal health goals. New and improved fitness devices and apps – some of which are integrated with social networks – are fueling better health for some. Furthermore, new broadband-backed technology is being developed to help Americans achieve healthier lifestyles and reduce heart disease, diabetes and obesity.
Devices such as the Fitbit pedometer and BodyMedia’s armband measure and track the user’s activity level. These are useful tools – but they require users to consciously and regularly wear these products to measure progress. Now, the innovators who developed the the iPhone glucose sensor for diabetes are working on next-generation health-monitoring devices. Misfit Wearables are developing a tiny activity-tracking device that can be embedded in a cell phone or wallet – to make charting calorie-burning and sedentary behavior effortless, yet consistent for each user. The ultimate goal is to convert this data in a meaningful way that will help inform physicians and help individuals to create healthier habits.
Meanwhile IBM is working on a computer program to turn losing weight into a game. Users report their consumption and exercise to earn cash, or perhaps other prizes, such as movie tickets or rewards for online games. IBM plans to license the game to companies and insurance providers interested in inspiring employees and subscribers to adopt healthier habits.
Games and devices such as these are great for individuals, but they could also benefit the entire country by lowering health care costs associated with these conditions. It's a win-win for everyone – and a prime example of the kind of innovation broadband offers on the health frontier.