Self-Tracking

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How Much is Your Health Data Worth — And Who’s Buying It?

By Aarti Shahani, KQED

Self-tracking devices are going beyond fitness. Scanadu is building a device to record medical vital signs.

Self-tracking devices are going beyond fitness. Scanadu is building a device to record medical vital signs.

Those trying to lose pounds after over-indulging this holiday season can look for help from a slew of monitors that count steps climbed, calories burned, and heart rate. Self-tracking, once a subculture for fitness junkies, is gaining broader appeal for a broader range of health issues.

According to Forrester Research, about three percent of online shoppers say they already use a self-tracking device, and 17 percent say they’re interested in one popular brand.

Tim Chang, a venture capitalist with the Mayfield Fund, is one of the money guys behind self-tracking. Chang raised $9 million for a new kind of tracker, made by Basis, a start up. The device, still a prototype, is “the world’s first very accurate heart rate monitor on just a wrist watch,” he says. “No chest strap, no other device.”

Sensors and bluetooth technologies have become so cheap and sophisticated, they can record more than steps taken and calories burned. Another start-up, Scanadu, is building a handheld device to record systolic blood pressure and blood oxygenation. Scanadu’s Walter De Brouwer says technology enables people to be “citizen doctors.”

If Basis can get its wristwatch/heart rate monitor to market, it will presumably make money from sales. But Chang is hoping for big money from a different place: selling an app that aggregates the monitor’s data and analyzes it for you, the user. Continue reading