As the iPhone and its software grow older, its continual evolution changes how we use it as device. For many, the iPhone is still used primarily as a communications device, while for others, the iPhone is used for reading news and browsing social networks. For me, more and more, the iPhone has become a tracking device that automates processes to improve my health. As a young person, I'm not too worried about physical health, but recent events have made me very aware of my mental health.
iOS apps like Day One help keep my thoughts and feelings in order and I've begun to write all my ideas in a memo book to preserve them in a singular form for my long-term self. But there are many intricacies that I haven't been able to measure, such as who I'm with, what my mood is and whether or not I'm working. The concept of measuring these aspects isn't new, but I had yet to find a great process to measure them.
So when Reporter for iPhone launched this past week, I quickly saw a new way to measure my smaller, hour-to-hour details. Reporter designer, Nicholas Felton, has measured his life for the past five years and has created incredible annual reports detailing his findings. Felton believes the measurement of his life's smallest details will show patterns that are otherwise unknown. I believe understanding the patterns of our moods and our habitual actions could have a great effect on catching mental health issues before they become problems.
For now, Reporter is straightforward and logs your reports consistently and with little hassle. But I'm far more interested in the future of Reporter.
I've been imagining Reporter in conjunction with a futuristic iWatch ever since I launched the app and created my first report. The iWatch's capabilities are currently rumoured to spread from fitness tracking to vital sign monitoring. Supposedly, the sensors packed into this new iWatch could track and quantify many of our characteristics that are currently difficult to monitor.
In light of this, I foresee Reporter becoming incredibly handy for monitoring mental health and for physical health, assuming Apple opens up the iWatch and Healthbook app to third-party applications. Mini-surveys aside, Reporter could be used without ever opening the app. The app could tap into Healthbook and match times of increased heart rates to an activity survey or match a blood pressure monitor to a mood survey. The potential is even there for Reporter to tell you who you are in love with before you know yourself. Reporter could match your heart rate to who you are with and determine whether you are mad or in love with a person. The possibilities are endless.
The "Quantified Self" is an interesting concept. Human beings are not robots, but we act habitually and, often, we act without a lot of thought. Discovering patterns in these habitual actions can increase our self-awareness and can weed out those thoughtless activities that drive down our enjoyment of life. Imagine all of that combined with the power of a device that can track our physical well-being as well.
The wearable technology craze has only just begun. As technology recedes out of our main focus and into a form that can be used thoughtlessly and habitually, we will be able to focus our time on other problems and ideas. Reporter, combined with an iWatch, could eliminate many behaviours before they become problems and our statistical self-awareness could cull out poor behaviours to create a more efficient life.
Technology is about finding a better way to do something. Apply that to doing "ourselves" better and you're onto something. I think Felton and Reporter are way ahead of their time, especially if Apple allows them to be.