Wearable Sensors

The use of wearable sensors for health, fitness and wellbeing purposes is intimately tied in with recent shifts toward more personalised healthcare, patient choice and self care. The European medical systems make hard choices about priorities in the delivery of public healthcare, bearing in mind that the largest cost factor is by far the common lifestyle, ageing-related and often chronic conditions. Preventing the onset of such conditions lies, in part at least, in taking measures to manage and maintain one's own health over the long term. However, prevention is also a public health target, relying on political and financial instruments in attempting widespread behavioural change.

In this case study, we have focussed our attention on wearable sensors as an emerging market rather than simply an emerging new domain of technological innovation in healthcare. We consider wearable sensors as consumer products and services, evolving from lead-markets of specialised practices and affluent consumption into mainstream mass marketing of smartphone-enabled apps and 'hubs' for mobile data gathering, processing and communication. We observe an emerging ecology of devices and services, operating across the spectrum of healthcare and self care. This is a growing ageing technologies market, an amateur athletes and fitness market. We also observe that the 'monitor-and-measure' of health and fitness-related statuses results in new kinds of informational bodies and selves, along with high expectations of data gathering and data sharing for the benefit of self-trackers. We observe new fronts for knowledge dissemination that encourages this trend.

Additionally, we observe that media coverage of self-tracking devices communicates big visions about the future of medicine and innovation in consumer electronics. The usefulness of biological and physiological knowledge is not clear, considering how such data is empirically communicated to users of self-tracking devices through apps and dashboard designs. However, within this growing field of consumer health informatics, there is a rising concern over the issue of how patients can participate in and have control over the management of their own data. Novel service designs play a central role in this development, but so does citizen self care activism in self-tracking and self-hacking with focus upon open data and privacy protection—the question of who owns the data and what can be done with it.

Assessment methodologies involved: ethics, law, media studies, knowledge assessment (pedigree analysis), socio-technical evaluation.

  • Gunnarsdóttir, K., Breitegger, M., Dijk, N. van., Fotopoulou, A., Guimarães Pereira, Â., O'Riordan, K., Rommetveit, K. and Vesnic-Alujevic, L. (2015, submitted). Tracking biosensors: healthcare, wellbeing and new-emerging markets. Draft copy of preprint is available at http://neicts.lancs.ac.uk/pdf/Preprint-Care-Markets.pdf.
  • Vesnic-Alujevic, L., Breitegger, M. and Guimarães Pereira, Â. (2015, forthcoming). 'Do it yourself' healthcare? Quality of health and healthcare through wearable sensors. Science and Engineering Ethics.
  • Fotopoulou, A. and O'Riordan, K. (2015, submitted). Training to self-care: Fitness tracking and the knowledgeable consumer. European Journal of Cultural Studies.
  • Breitegger, M., Vesnic-Alujevic, L. and Guimarães Pereira, Â. (2015, submitted). Wearable Sensors - Assessing Knowledge of Epistemic Networks. Science and Technology Studies.
  • Gunnarsdóttir, K. and Guimarães Pereira, Â. (eds) (2015, book proposal). Making sense of wearable care. Markets, mediascapes and the informational person. Palgrave.
  • Guimarães Pereira, Â. and Gunnarsdóttir, K. (2015, submitted). Self-tracking and critical sense-making: an emerging epistemic network (conference paper). 4S Annual Conference, Denver, Colorado 11-14 November. Session title: Exploring self-tracking: between submission and resistance.
  • Fotopoulou, A. (in preparation). 'All these emotions, all these yearnings, all these data': big data and the moral economy of data sharing. Invited submission to Big Data and Society.
  • Fotopoulou, A., and Dijk, N. van. (in preparation). Interface design, data behavior & self-understanding in wearable fitness tracking. In K. Gunnarsdóttir and Â. Guimarães Pereira. (eds) (2015, book proposal). Making sense of wearable care. Markets, mediascapes and the informational person. Palgrave.
  • Fotopoulou, A. (2015). Training to Self-Care: Knowledge, Power, and Fitness Data'(conference paper). Data Power Conference, 22nd & 23rd June, University of Sheffield, UK.
  • Fotopoulou, A. and O'Riordan (2015, submitted). Training to self-care: Fitness tracking and the knowledgeable consumer'(conference paper). 4S Annual Conference, Denver, Colorado 11-14 November. Session title: Wearables, Self-Trackng and Quantified Selves: Emerging Perspectives: Embedding and Embodying Self-Tracking Technologies In Everyday Life (Chair: T. Timan).
  • O'Riordan, K. and Fotopoulou, A. (2015). Biosensory experiences and media materiality (conference paper). Internet Research 16.0: Digital Imaginaries, October 21-24, 2015.Phoenix, Arizona, USA. http://ir16.aoir.org/.