The 21st century started with significantly advanced storage, processing, sensing, and communication technologies. All these have resulted in popularization of strong data-dependent approaches. Big Data became the biggest buzz word one can imagine. Since scientific approaches emphasized observation and systematic experimentation, availability of sensors to observe different aspects of physical reality encouraged collection of such data and then its analysis to develop laws of nature. Since the availability of data became widespread, desire to understand physical reality at different levels in different applications became possible and desirable. Big data and analytics became two most commonly used terms not only in scientific circles, but in many other circles also. In a true sense, scientism became the modus operandi in every field; even those who never cared for data.
Inspired by this growth in data and its applicability in disparate areas, many people started collecting data about self for various reasons. This field of collecting self-data started at the dawn of the 21st century and was motivated by different goals. The first movement in this area was called eChronicles or Lifelogs. The goal in this was to use different sources of digital information to collect all life activities in a database. By indexing this database, one could review all important events in the database. The most famous of these projects was MyLifeBits championed at Microsoft research by Gordon Bell. In These systems life activities using different types of sensors. These activities were obtained from all digital sources, augmented using wearbale cameras and other devices. Important life events are detected using classification techniques and then visualized or analyzed to extract meaning information from this data.
The second phase of self-data collection became popular about a decade later. Facilitated by wearable sensors, new advances in sensing technology, smart phones, and wireless technology, it was now easy to collect data about a particular attribute, such as heart rate or body temperature, at every moment for a person. This idea rapidly spread to become a movement that is now popularly called quantified self. Since different types of sensors are now available, and new types of sensors could be developed, people sensitive to their health started recording health related information using different types of sensor ranging from simple wearable accelerometers that could record their activity information and that could be classified and recorded in simple activities like walking, jogging, climbing stairs, and similar things. People could continuously measure their body temperature, heart rate, perspiration rate, galvanic skin resistivity and many other deeper parameters. Sensors that could reside inside body for measuring glucose level or many other bodily parameters are in their early stage of use.
The idea of self-sensing is not new, but technology brought it to a level that it could become a consumer technology. This attracted lots of people and has now become a movement attracting user groups in almost all major cities and regular conferences in this area. Wearable computing is now here and will encourage people to record their physical activities, other life activities, bodily parameters, and social interactions. It is commonly believed that recording such data and having access to it may result in many personal benefits for people. People are now recording lots of data about themselves making their life a true personal data warehouse.
We believe that the quantified-self movement is an important step in bringing scientific framework to understand an individual based on data collected continuously. This is the first time in history of humanity that this has become feasible. And what we are seeing are the early stages of scientific framework based on sustained observations of controlled as well as natural experiments on individuals can be converted to laws related to the physical, social, and spiritual system that each individual is. This opportunity is revolutionary on many fronts.