Are you about to get sick? Your activity tracker might be able to help provide the answer.
Researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine in California recently compiled nearly 2 billion measurements from 60 study participants, grabbing more than 250,000 measurements of health a day for two years.
Participants wore as few as one and as many as seven trackers for the study, published recently in PLOS Biology. This information allowed the researchers to track weight, heart rate, oxygen in the blood, skin temperature, physical activity, calorie expenditure and even exposure to gamma rays and X-rays in the hopes of catching signs of illness before the wearer felt symptoms.
The devices used for the study are commercially available. The researchers said the study demonstrated that it is possible to define a baseline of health that is specific to an individual, and from there gain better insight into when people deviate from those norms. The researchers hope that having such a detailed personalized health profile can assist physicians with treatment and diagnosis.
Senior study author Michael Snyder witnessed firsthand the positive effects of this method of health monitoring. While wearing seven biosensors during a flight to Norway he noticed his heart rate and blood-oxygen levels were abnormal. Soon thereafter he developed a fever. A later visit to a doctor in Norway revealed he had Lyme disease.
“Wearables helped make the initial diagnosis,” Snyder said in a news release.
As of July 2015 there were more than 500 healthcare-related wearable devices available on the market, and over 34.3 million devices have been sold. That is triple the number sold in 2013.
“We have more sensors on our cars than we have on human beings,” Snyder said, but he expects the situation will reverse in the future.