How IoT is disrupting population health

Few would argue against the fact that personal fitness devices have gone mainstream. Bragging about reaching your 10,000 steps for the day has become standard dinner or cocktail conversation.

Even the daily walk between offices inside the workplace has become an extension of the gym. While 10 years ago one would barely consider this “fitness,” today it could be 3,000 steps toward your daily goal.

When Fitbits, Jawbones and other similar gadgets hit the market, most of us had no clue that these simple wrist monitors would become one of the most basic sensors beaming out to the Internet of Things.

Fast forward to a scenario where the city is a Fitbit, where citizen movements (or lack thereof) can be aggregated into data repositories, and insight can be gathered to understand the health of the population.

This is no longer the future.

Urban planners and healthcare professional see cities as a natural level for understanding populations from the data exhaust of IoT, which offers the 5 V’s of big data (volume, velocity, variety and veracity).

As this e-health movement evolves, we’re seeing humans living within the fitness device, as opposed to the device being lashed to the human’s wrist. Firms such as Delos have become game-changers by placing health and wellness at the center of design and construction.

This movement has led to the establishment of the “WELL Building Standard” for measuring, certifying and monitoring the performance of building features that impact health and well-being. Many WELL buildings have incorporated elements of personal fitness devices into the building itself, tracking movement through discreet monitors.

In other cases, the IoT aspects are related to the relationship between light and wellness. For example many of the new technologies align the amount of light in an office or residence with the optimal circadian rhythm needed at that time of day. The resulting research shows that the workers/residents have dramatically improved health, personal productivity, happiness and the willingness to collaborate.

This comes in tandem with more and more companies aggregating anonymized data from fitness devices to better understand the health and wellness of their employees. In many of these cases, increasing the use of fitness devices has resulted in a decrease in insurance expenditures for problems related to weight and inactivity.

But population health IoT does not come without detractors. Ironically many of the detractors are those responsible for big data analytics in government and enterprises. It comes as no surprise that privacy is rightfully a major concern with health-related data. But of even greater concern is the sheer amount of data that is being captured, simply for the purpose of gathering more data from more feeds.

Despite the smart city movement, most public sector organizations have few data science resources to extract predictive analytics models, or any models at all for that matter. So the data sits and waits until some sense can be made of it. In the meantime, eye candy and sound bytes are developed to convince the public that tracking citizens through IoT has some tangible impact on the health of the population.

Pushback also comes from healthcare institutions already pained by the process of integrating electronic health record data from existing patient records. The thought of adding IoT feeds with questionable reliability and validity send healthcare IT pros into a tailspin.

To get around some of these issues, many public and private institutions are looking at low-budget IoT in the form of sophisticated social media listening. While this does not fit with the true definition of the IoT sensor, the unstructured data derived from social network conversations and trends can provide qualitative insight that only petabytes of binary data would offer.

How is your public or private enterprise using technology to derive insight for the well being of your employees or citizens?


Welcome to the wonderful world of hijacked IoT devices

IoT: Where Telematics and Big Data meet to create huge opportunities

Mobile devices and apps are driving a revolution in healthcare


  1. But population health IoT does not come without detractors. Ironically many of the detractors are those responsible for big data analytics in kapal government and enterprises.


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