IoT & AI: How Technology Helped Me Lose 20kg (nearly 45 pounds)
Erling Hesselberg is a Vice President at Crayon who Oversees all Initiatives involving the Internet of Things:
Most of us have had that flash of inspiration to eat healthier and do more exercise but let’s face it, we don’t like change. Why would I want to go and cook a meal from scratch when I can have somebody deliver to my door within 30 minutes as I sit and watch Netflix?
Bring on the Technology
The Internet of Things (IoT) is slowly starting to change how we think and act. When we talk about IoT, we’re referring to all those devices which relate to sensors, such as Fitbits, Apple Watch, Alexa, Google Home and countless others.
I am a proud team member at Crayon Group, a global IT advisory firm and work with IoT every day, overseeing projects that remotely collect and analyze data from sensors. We measure plastic and other pollutants in our oceans, monitor cows for their well-being and make factories run more efficient. Each day I’m amazed at how pervasive IoT is in everything we do.
In terms of getting fitter and/or eating better, technology and sensor devices are revolutionizing how to lead a healthy lifestyle. This article talks about some of the devices available and my personal experience with becoming healthier through use of IoT.
For a number of years there had never been much thought for my health and (lack of) exercise until a three-digit number stared back at me from the scales. This realization spurred me into action and consult the products which I had used every day for the past 25 years through work.
In the last 9 or 10 months, I’ve lost 20kg (nearly 45 pounds) of weight and feel a whole lot better about myself. Why was I able to progress so quickly and become more motivated? Humans have 99.9% the same DNA and IoT devices and artificial intelligence are unlocking the 0.1% of DNA that makes us unique.
21st Century Technology has Unlocked my 0.1%
Technology is all well and good but only if it makes an impact. Integrating AI and its technical applications into IoT devices is unlocking that 0.1% that makes it personal to me. This means that I can get a diet plan I’ll actually enjoy or an exercise plan that fits in with my lifestyle.
Big Data has changed the fitness industry.
Cloud computing can process vast amounts of information in real-time allowing us to receive messages in an instant.
Fitbit is one of the most used wearable devices out there with 26.73 million users in 2018. The Fitbit Coach app is able to create highly personalized workouts for their users based on the data it collects (the number of steps taken each day, calories burned, heart rate, floors climbed and distance travelled). All of that data is transported into cloud databases and run through complex algorithms to bring fully customized plans to the user.
FitnessGenes is an app that is specifically designed to give tailored nutritional plans to its users. It does this based on our individual genes and vascular function or sleep patterns to provide precise recommendations.
Alternatively, Yazio combines data from a number of devices to create bespoke diet plans for their huge number of users. It tracks your data in real-time taking your intake vs exercise to show exactly what you need to do if wanting to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
There are innumerable apps just like these on the market but to truly tap into the health market, sometimes this customization alone isn’t enough and many companies are reaching out to the lucrative gaming industry.
While gamification is a bit of an industry buzzword, it usually refers to turning the things we don’t like doing into games to make them more enjoyable. One of those that has certainly reached out to me during the cold Norwegian winters is Zwift.
Zwift is a turbo trainer game that enables you to link your bike up your computer, iPad etc. letting you ride with other cyclists in a virtual environment. As well as competing against other Zwift racers, you can access workouts designed by professional coaches; it combines personalization and gamification to make health and fitness more enjoyable.
Most of the other apps I’ve already spoken about in this article have some kind of gamification built-in. For example, Fitbit has leaderboards to compete against your friends or other users in order to maintain your motivation. One of the best examples is the Zombies! – a running app where users run to survive the zombie apocalypse.
Turning exercise into a game can be highly motivating - just look at the success of Pokemon Go.
The wider societal impact
IoT technology and Big Data are bringing huge benefits to the health industry.
With the vast expanse of data being collected by fitness devices, we can easily detect changes in health conditions such as monitoring sleep patterns and heart rates to detect early signs of diseases like diabetes, sleep disorders and hypertension.
Some insurance companies are now starting to use the data gained from IoT devices and factoring it into premiums. For customers who are somewhat healthy and active, e.g. do 10,000 steps a day, the health risk is potentially lower than those who do 5,000 steps per day so they are able to benefit from reduced premiums.
Chain of support
Regardless of the applications, devices and such, ultimately it’s up to you. Technology can’t push you out the door to go for a run or make you choose a salad instead of burger and fries (at least not yet anyway!). That’s why it’s important to have a network of support.
At my company, Crayon, there is a large selection of healthy food available for lunch every day. In terms of fitness, we have training plans organized in a nearby gym and there are also showers and a bike garage available for those who pedal two wheels to work.
Technology is truly starting to shape how we live our lives but there is still some way to go to make it accessible for everyone. Successful results are the biggest factor in keeping people motivated. By providing personalization, reminders and efficient functionality, technology companies are now able to provide some of the emotional support needed.
What we can’t expect is for IoT to suddenly make us all healthier and fitter BUT we can use technology to unlock that 0.1%.