The term data exhaust doesn’t seem very pleasant, as it sounds “like something you’re trying to get rid of or something noxious that comes out of the back of your car,” says Rick Smolan, author of The Human Face of Big Data.
And yet, data exhaust could save your life.
Smolan points to a company called Ginger IO that has a smartphone app that can predict two days before you get depressed that you’re going to get depressed. How does that work? Your phone is recording your behavior, and the app picks up on patterns of behavior. Ginger IO focuses in particular on people with diabetes who have a very high correlation with depression.
“When you get depressed, people stop taking their medicine,” Smolan says. So this is one example of how our phones are “starting to know us better than we know ourselves.” And Smolan says this ought to be embraced. “They’re starting to see patterns that we don’t detect on a day-by-day basis, but the phone sees this overall pattern and then it looks for changes in that pattern.”
The great elephant in the room in the health care discussion is the huge cost of keeping alive those already in the final stages of life. Is there a better way to approach this, or to even discuss it? Right now, we are doing neither.