From SWOLF through EDA until heart rate, heart rate variability, respiratory rate, single-lead ECG, period tracking, sleep pattern analyzing: dozens of vital signs demonstrate that there’s no single square centimeter of the human body without quantifiable data. As an experiment, we tried to collect every trackable parameter to draw the boundaries of your “health data self”. Let us know if there’s anything left out.
Why is measurement useful? To know thyself
The famous ancient Greek aphorism was inscribed on a wall in the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, the oracle, which was believed to tell humans about the plans of the Gods for the future. But for successfully peeking into the secrets of time to come, the Greeks believed one should know themselves well.
Their wisdom has remained timeless: self-knowledge is still the basis for better life choices – and thus a more predictable future. Luckily, technology offers more and more means to have a clearer picture of the workings of your body so that you can have fitting choices to live a healthier and more balanced life – if you want.
Along these lines, self-knowledge through self-tracking has the ultimate goal to have all that quantified information to be able to improve your lifestyle and your health. What data can we measure about ourselves, you ask? The list must be endless, nevertheless we attempt to incorporate here all the parameters that you can measure about yourself. Are you ready for it?
How is your heart doing?
Monitoring the electrical activity of the heart has become one of the most frequent parameters that digital technologies promise to track. AliveCor’s Kardia and Apple Watch measure ECG and detect atrial fibrillation with high sensitivity. The Wiwe also measures blood oxygen levels.
The Clinicloud, the EKO Core, the eKuore Pro all measure heart and lung sounds as digital stethoscopes, while the Swedish Coala also acts as an ECG monitor. Nordavind’s ECG Dongle appears as a 12-lead ECG, M3DICINE as the first artificially intelligent stethoscope system, while the Prizma G2 medical smartphone case promises the measurement of body temperature, oxygen saturation, heart rate or stress level. Quantified data reaches even the youngest: HeraMED’s HeraBeat fetal heart monitor tracks fetuses’ heart health. Plus, Owlet Care’s Smart Sock 2 uses pulse oximetry to measure babies’ heart rate and oxygen levels while they are asleep.
How do you pump blood?
Beyond heart health, blood pressure is another frequently monitored parameter. You can measure it with the Omron Blood Pressure Smartwatch, the MOCAcare pocket sensor and blood pressure cuff, the iHealth Clear, the Skeeper, a pocket cardiologist, or the Withings Blood Pressure Monitor, and of course, dozens of traditional blood pressure cuffs.
If you want to add arterial pressure, pulse rate, blood saturation, stroke volume, try the Biobeat wearable. Are you interested in heart rate, heart rate variability, respiratory rate, single-lead ECG and another four physiological measurements? Check out VitalConnect’s biosensor patch.
Are you breathing?
To measure cough rate, respiration patterns, heartbeat, temperature, and other body data, Health Care Originals introduced a wearable device called ADAMM. For tracking peak flow and heart rate, you can use Smart Peak Flow or AioCare. The Spire and the Vitali Smart Bra follow the user’s activity and breathing by motion sensors. MonBaby is a clip-on device that snaps onto a child’s clothing and provides breathing, movement and sleeping position data to a smartphone.
How do you sleep?
Sleep measurement has dozens of parameters to track: light and deep sleep, the REM phase, snoring, motion and sound patterns, or nighttime noises. The majority of sleep apps track the ‘basics’: SleepCycle, Sleep Time, Runtastic offer insights into sleep quality. Pillow also detects motion and sound patterns. Sleep As Android applies Sonar for measurements: ultrasonic signals produced by the speaker and microphone to detect signals created by movements during sleep. Otherwise, it tracks light and deep sleep, the REM phase, catches snorers, helps diagnose sleep disorders and warns users if they are running on a sleep deficit. Snorelab specifically concentrates on snoring: records disturbing nighttime noises and measures snoring intensity.
When it comes to sleep sensors, the Viatom O2 Sleep Monitor closely monitors your heart rate and blood oxygen level. The ResMed’s S+ bedside sleep monitor tracks sleeping patterns, while the SleepScore Max uses biomotion sensors to measure respiration and body movement. The Live by Earlysense sensor, which the user can put under the mattress, tracks movements, stress level, heart rate, and breathing rate. Its twin sister, Beddit, monitors bedtime, awakenings and bed exits, sleep time, sleep latency (the time it takes to fall asleep), resting heart rate, sleep quality and breathing movements. Eight Sleep and Withings Sleep offer sleep quality analysis, the latter with heart rate tracking and snore detection, while Emfit offers ballistocardiography, a technique for sensing the sudden ejection of blood into the great vessels with each heartbeat and breathing movement analysis. There’s hardly anything that you cannot measure when it comes to your sleep. Perhaps your dreams.
Are you stressing out?
Introspection in the form of meditation could lead to lower stress levels – that could be measured by electrodermal activity (EDA). The PIP device and Empatica use this parameter. The first device shows the stress level of the user of the sensor, and the second one detects potential seizures. Researchers found that your EDA can be raised through excitement, stress, or sports, however, we couldn’t find any tracker or wearable measuring the latter. This would not be the case with any other activity parameter.
How are you moving your body?
Countless fitness trackers and wearables measure step count, heart rate, pulse rate, distance taken, calories burned, etc. With Strava, MyFitnessPal, Mapmyrun, Runkeeper, Endomondo, Nike+, Polar, Garmin, you can follow your run precisely. The Fitbit Alta HR smartwatch, or the Fitbit Ionic, Blaze, or Surge all offer you something similar.
If you happen to fancy swimming, the Misfit Shine 2, the Finnish Suunto Smart Sensor, the Garmin Swim, the Polar A370 fitness tracker, the Moov Now, the Huawei Band 3 Pro, or the Swimsense by Finis all promise you to measure laps and swim distance, or calories burned. Moreover, the majority of swimming trackers also monitor SWOLF, a combination of “swimming” and “golf”, that actually means your stroke rate (which you want to keep low – as in golf) and overall speed.
If you’re a frequent visitor in the gym instead of jumping into water, you might want to measure your muscle activity with Athos or GymWatch, to wear OMSignal’s smart bra, the OMbra to track workout, distances run, breathing rates and heart rate, or to use the Respa, a breathing analyzer, designed to improve athletic performance while doing yoga. For perfecting the latter, Wearable X’s Nadi X yoga pants come with built-in haptic vibrations that gently pulse at the hips, knees, and ankles to encourage you to move and/or hold positions. But that’s not all!
Fertile windows and contractions
Not even the areas of fertility and procreation are free from measurements. Period tracker apps, such as the most popular ones, Glow or Clue, offer menstruation flow monitoring, cycle scheduling, and prediction. Natural Cycles provides a non-invasive and non-hormonal way of contraception, while the wearable wristband, Ava Women tracks skin temperature, resting pulse rate, breathing rate, heart rate variability ratio, perfusion, movement, bioimpedance, heat loss, and even sleep. And if the baby is successfully conceived, women can measure contractions with Bloomlife through electrical activity of uterine muscle.
Body and temperature
Of course, digital technologies also track vital parameters that have been monitored for ages. Wishbone and Empatica measure body temperature; while TempTraq developed a sticker for babies to keep a tab on the little ones’ body heat easily. Bodytrak is a unique wearable that measures biometric information, such as temperature, from your ear.
On another note, smart scales such as Eufy BodySense Smart Scale or Qardio not only promise to give an accurate picture of body weight but also act as full body composition analyzers, too. The device from Withings possesses similar features. It measures your weight, your body composition as well as your heart rate.
s there anything left?
Not much, really. Just an appreciation for the Viatom Checkme Pro, the device that measures the most vital signs and health parameters at once: ECG, blood oxygen saturation, thermometer, blood pressure monitor, sleep monitor, step count, as well as pulse oximetry. It’s almost like Dr. McCoy’s medical tricorder from Star Trek.