Health and fitness in your pocket and on your wrist
Bob's Tech Talk
Q. My daughter keeps encouraging me to get a smartphone, but I fail to see any need. I don’t need the Internet on my phone. Are there other reasons?
A. Information can save your life. And the smartphone can be an essential tool for recording information about your health. A smartphone can log medications and remind you when it is time to administer the next dose. It can record vital statistics, sometimes in concert with external devices like bathroom scales and blood pressure monitors. And it can also provide emergency responders with a picture of your medical history in the event you are unable to communicate.
Even if the phone has a password set, the smartphone can allow first responders access to information such as medications, conditions, emergency contacts and so on.
A smartphone is a computer in your pocket. It can specialize in thousands of different ways. Here are two simple examples: Easy Pill is an app that tracks your medication and prompts you to take each dose. QardioArm is a blood pressure cuff that uses a smartphone to record readings.
My mother, who is nearly 80, got her first iPhone about six months ago. She did not see the value at first, but today she insists that it is the most important tech device she owns. She asks Siri questions all the time, even simple things like how to spell a word. Smartphones can weave their way into our lives in so many different ways that their convenience is difficult to anticipate, but easy to experience firsthand.
Q. Should I get an Apple Watch?
A. The Apple Watch isn’t for everyone. It is expensive. It requires an iPhone. And although not a formal requirement, household Wi-Fi is almost essential. If you are fortunate enough to have these pieces in place already, the Apple Watch is an excellent upgrade. I have been wearing one for over a year, and rely on it more every day.
I do not carry a phone in my pocket when I’m at home. The Apple Watch is an extension of the phone, sending notifications, messages, and reminders to my wrist. Using Siri, I can reply instantly, directly from the watch.
The Apple Watch is also a simple fitness tracker. It keeps track of your movements, and reminds you to stand up and move around if you’ve been sedentary for too long, or to pause for a moment and take a deep breath. My favorite feature is the pedometer, which keeps track of the number of steps I take each day.
There is one feature I hope I never have to use, but it provides peace of mind: “Emergency SOS.” Press a button on the side of the watch for three seconds, then tap a button on screen, and the watch will initiate a voice telephone call to emergency services. You do not need to have the phone on your person. As long as the iPhone and your Apple Watch are on the same Wi-Fi network, the watch acts as a speakerphone. Once the call is complete, the phone will send a message to your emergency contacts with your location.
The Apple Watch has its own app store, so it is not difficult to find something that will make your life easier. As noted earlier, the watch is expensive. However, there are a wide range of models with various prices. The Series 1 model is the least expensive, and unless you want to use it underwater, it will meet your needs very well.
Q. I’m unsure about the wisdom of putting sensitive health information into my phone. Is it safe?
A. Privacy is a complex issue, especially with health data. As I write this, the only device that I think has demonstrated robust security is the iPhone. It clearly denotes what information is collected, and how it is shared with each app. It puts the user in control, and allows him or her to make informed decisions on the scale and scope of data collection.
But there are still concerns. When you use an app, it is not obvious if the app is provided by Apple or a third party. Each third-party app is controlled by a different company. The iPhone provides strict controls, but if the user allows it, the data may be shared beyond the phone itself. My recommendation is to be very restrictive, and only grant permission if there is a sufficient benefit.
A tech enthusiast his entire life, Bob can be contacted at email@example.com.
Wander the Web
Weight Loss App
Loseit is a very popular weight loss tracker for iPhone and Android. The free version includes a database for counting calories. Premium features add personal coaches, integration with several different bathroom scales, and access to a wealth of information, all to help you reach your weight loss goals. http://www.loseit.com
My Favorite iPhone Fitness Apps
David Smith is an independent software developer who has created some of my favorite health and fitness apps that take advantage of both the iPhone and Apple Watch. They include apps for tracking physical activity, workouts, and even sleep.
The Future of Health Care in Your Pocket
This page is a peek at the leading edge of how the iPhone is transforming health care. It includes links to more information on participating in a number of medical studies, everything from asthma to sleep health. In addition to research, there is a fresh look at new possibilities for managing follow-up care. http://www.apple.com/researchkit/