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Technology & Innovation

Apps That Call for Backup Before You Even Know You Need It

We may be able to harness our own “data exhaust” to do great things.

The onset of depression is brutal for anyone, but for diabetics—who frequently suffer from depression—it can lead to missed medications with potentially life-changing, and even lethal, repercussions. And whenever depression descends on anyone, it can be impossible to get help in time.

But consider this. With our various electronic devices, we each leave a large digital wake behind. Phones, for example, contain built-in GPS and health-monitoring sensors that produce a constant stream of data about what we do and where we are.

Rick Smolan says that while we figure how to address the downsides of all this data—primarily the loss of privacy and identity theft—we should also start considering the new possibilities it presents.

What if an app on a phone that already tracks its owner’s habits could predict the imminent onset of depression and summon help automatically, and before it’s too late?

The company Smolan cites as an example in this 2014 video, Ginger IO, is still going strong, and has an impressive array of testimonials from customers who’ve harnessed the never-ending stream of data generated by their devices’ ever-watchful hardware.


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