We've become used to wearing fitness trackers, chest straps and smartwatches to monitor our heart during exercise, but keeping track of our ticker in everyday situations is still a relatively non-existent concept.
Enter BioSelf, a UK startup aiming to help people manage their stress through wearable technology and biometric feedback. With the company's cloud-connected wearable device —the Sensate — entering a beta phase, CEO Stefan Chmelik hopes that it can be the first to become truly integrated into daily life.
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"The popularity of mindfulness hasn't necessarily translated into behaviour change. Maybe people have downloaded an app for it, but it isn't really what everybody's hoped for," he told Wareable.
"That's when I started to look at technology, with the logic being, 'If technology is what's brought us to this highly distracted state, don't fight against it'. There's no point in me getting irate about how technology and the effect it's having on us, the only solution is to use technology to counter it."
With substantial stress feedback yet to be tapped into by the masses, though, Chmelik indicated that he wants the device to appeal to the mainstream.
"I genuinely believe that if enough people learn how to control their stress levels, the world would be a better place — there'll be less rage, there'll be more compassion, and the way I can deliver on that vision is to make day to day stress management more accessible.
"I think the problem with a lot of wearables is that they're a solution looking for a problem. Putting a Fitbit on your wrist doesn't make you run, it just potentially makes it easier if you want to do it in the first place."
Taking it to heart
As Chmelik alludes to, the problem with most mainstream heart rate tracking is its basic nature — you may be dealt the information, but many people don't necessarily know how to act upon it to improve their health.
What the Sensate hopes to establish is real-time feedback that encourages users to stick with the data and manage stressful situations.
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"There's instantaneous reward, so you're feeding into the parts of the brain that are normally associated with bad habits like sugar and alcohol. To change long term behaviour you've got to think short term," Chmelik continued.
"There's such a massive abandonment rate for some wearables because after a few weeks or months knowing how many steps you've taken is very dull. Data on its own is not engaging, it's got to mean something personal."
And while introducing a platform for users to engage with data on a companion app is one issue, producing a design that people are comfortable wearing every day is another. Initially, the Sensate will be an episodical device, making it a handy calming tool to fire it up during the morning commute or before a meeting.
However, over the next couple of years, BioSelf's plan is to develop the Sensate into an always-on and always-charged wearable. And by the time its beta phase is over, Chmelik noted that the final device — set to launch in the second half of 2017 — will be smaller.
While it's impossible to predict how successful any product will be, it's encouraging to see an emphasis on actionable data and a wearable that moves past the basic bracket of tracking — particularly in such a broad area such as stress management, in which nobody has managed to become a reliable, go-to option.
Strapping a device to your chest, whether its episodic or an all day affair, is never going to be for everyone. BioSelf's Sensate, though, does appear to be making a push towards smarter data and helping stress management become more accessible.
By picking up the device for £299 through the startup's beta programme, you also have the opportunity to give feedback to BioSelf and receive the finished product for free when it eventually hits the open.
Only you can decide whether you value reducing the stress of your commute enough to fork out for the device.
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