Health and Apple Watch28.05.2015
One HRW researcher’s initial experiences with Apple Watch
It’s worth admitting straight away that I am by no means a novice to smart devices to track health; a dyed in the wool self-quantifier, I’ve been a Fitbit user since 2010 and a user of GPS watches, heart rate monitors and technology to track health and fitness since my first palm pilot in 2001. So when I pre-ordered the Apple Watch it was never going to be a complete departure from my existing health and fitness tracking behaviour.
But what surprised me was that from the moment the Watch was out of the box, it was easy to use, stylish and light. It has enchanted me and been my constant companion: on the run, at the gym, in the airport, and at my desk. And during this intensive time together, the Apple Watch and I have discovered some things about each other. Although it is early days, I wanted to share these observations on life with the Apple Watch, and discuss the value of this tool for us as researchers, behaviour trackers, and health promoters…
- Integrated tracking to identify longitudinal patterns – unlike other sport or GPS watches that have to be set up to track specific activities, the watch is always tracking; painting a clear picture of my regular resting heart rate and activity levels across a typical day to give me a more integrated view of my patterns over time. It learns your typical resting and active heart rate ranges as well, to give more accurate calorie burn measures over time. The value of this approach for me as a wearer is similar to the value for us as researchers: the watch captures hundreds of data points every day so rather than focusing on the extraordinary events (that time I ran a marathon) we understand the true ups and downs (how often I stand up during a typical day in the office) to give a more reliable picture of overall health.
- Nudges and gamification for behaviour change– we at HRW are always talking about how behaviour change is process and not an event; and wearing the Watch it is clear that Apple have done their research on nudges. The built-in ‘haptic engine’ gives gentle vibrations to remind me to stand up from my desk at least once an hour, or to encourage me to have a long walk this afternoon to meet my target. I’ve only had the Watch for a little while but I have already noticed how the immediacy of these nudges, and the gamified ‘target’ activity tracking with awards/badges is an effective prompt to adopt healthier behaviours in the short term; little progressive changes one hopes will be a continuing cycle of health-positive behaviours.
- More opportunities for specialised health – unlike purpose built fitness trackers, there are already a plethora of apps that use the Watch’s multiple sensors for more specialised health monitoring and data sharing (tracking things like alcohol consumption, blood sugar, FEV1, air quality, pollen count, hydration, and anxiety), creating a wealth of data points to track correlations and predictive patterns for those using the apps; sure, many of these apps are available on the mobile, but the ease of access on the watch makes entering data that much easier and therefore accurate (and indeed many take advantage of the heart rate and motion sensors to measure implicitly).
Overall I look forward to seeing how my use of the Watch evolves over time; whether I start tracking more, or track less, whether its little prompts result in sustained behaviour change and health improvement or peaks and troughs. And as researchers we all wait with baited breath to see which companies are best placed to capitalise on the millions of health data points that the other Watch wearers and I are generating to deliver better integrated digital health solutions.
To ask Katy about her experiences with the Watch, or to discuss pioneering research we’ve done on the role of watch devices for research and adherence contact us here