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Gadgets for Healthier Geeks

Posted By Prucia Buscell, Thursday, February 24, 2011
Updated: Friday, March 4, 2011

Personal technology can boost health

B.J. Fogg, the inventor and innovator who runs Stanford University's Persuasive Technology Lab, says when it comes to behavior change, we need to "put hot triggers on the path of motivated people."

He thinks technology can help create healthy habits in the lives of everyday people, and growing cadre of entrepreneurs and big companies are creating gadgets and programs designed to do just that.

Blogger Giorgio Baresi in a piece about "The Gamification of Health", describes how much he enjoys using his Nike Plus,which lets him keep a record of all his runs and gather feedback and motivation from his friends on Facebook. The idea is that losing weight and staying in shape can be fun, or at least less grim. Medical professionals and health gurus all tell us we need to emphasize prevention and healthy behavior rather than illness, treatments and prescriptions. That makes sense, and becomes increasingly important as the population ages, health case costs rise, more people suffer chronic diseases, and a high percentage of American adults are overweight.

Noah Robischon, writing in Fast Company, calls the Adidas miCoachPacer the most full featured of the devices designed for casual marathoners. It combines a pedometer, heart rate monitor, calorie counter, and real-time coaching into a device that connects to an IPod or other audio player. It helps you keep track of workouts and a long-range fitness regime. There are geekier gadgets with GPS capacity to keep track of the exact routes run.

DirectLife and FitBit keep track of every movement of a person's day and the number of calories burned so that even couch potatoes have a baseline from which to build realistic activity goals. Both provide coaching assistance with designing and measuring activities.

For people already struggling with illness, devices can help cope and manage. The DexcomSeven is a platinum-based miniature wire that can be inserted under the skin and held in place with a small adhesive patch. It can read glucose levels for seven days before it has to be changed. Sensors in some brands have to be changed every three to five days. Have trouble sleeping? The Zeo Sleep Monitor analyzes your slumber and gives you a full report with recommendations and help for improvement.

Some technological health aides are amazing. Proteus ingestible event markers IEMs are tiny ingestible sensors made from food ingredients. Once swallowed and activated by stomach fluids, the IEM creates a digital signal that will be detected by a microelectronic recorder configured as a small skin patch or a small device under the skin. It gathers information on drug dosage and as well as a range of physiological data, and is designed for development of individualized care and wellness management. Researchers at the Weismann Institute of Science developed a system that identifies changes in air pressure inside a person's nostrils and a device that translates the changes into electrical signals. The system lets individuals who are paralyzed but cognitively unimpaired learn to steer wheel chairs and initiate communication with their breathing

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