There are a number of factors that can affect your respiratory health, but it's often difficult to know what you can do to improve your breathing, or even just see what the air – and particles within that air – is doing to you.
3M is looking to step in with its Respiratory Tracker, available on IndieGoGo now for $89. The design is simple: you clip it onto your waistband or bra and then go about your day. The tracker keeps track of your breathing and then sends that information to the companion app.
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The app is where things get interesting. 3M's algorithms keep track of what your normal breathing is like, so when it senses something is off, it'll alert you. At this point, you pull out the app and are prompted to input any symptoms you may be feeling.
Options include things like wheezing, fatigue, shortness of breath, coughing, watery eyes, fast heart rate, tightening chest and even things like anxiety. This is all tracked and logged by the app, which in turn lets you track trends over time. Maybe your breathing is affected by watery eyes, which could have something to do with pollen allergies, for example.
To better help you understand how all this is affecting you, the app also keeps track of your location and will send you what 3M calls a "personalised trigger forecast." This is basically a fancy way of telling you how much you're going to suffer that day based on what symptoms you tend to report when your breathing is askew.
The more interesting bit of the app, however, is actionable insights. Once 3M has gathered enough information on how you breathe and what affects you (and where), the app will send you notifications with recommendations. For instance, it could know that it might rain – that means more pollen is released into the air. To counter that, the app would recommend that you change your clothes and shower after getting home from being outside.
3M is in a unique position to create a respiratory tracker that can help people, believes Sam Van Alsyne, the company's new products marketing leader. "3M has over 60 years of expertise in drug delivery and inhalation therapy, so our innovation team set off to try and find a better solution for personalised respiratory health."
However, while the company says the Respiratory Tracker can help improve your breathing, it's not a be-all, end-all solution. Van Alsyne says that the goal is to "promote" healthy habits and that the tracker has to be paired up with a healthy lifestyle to actually change things. Relatedly, Van Alsyne says the tracker and companion app was validated with a research study featuring 100 participants.
A generation-defining question to be sure. But there is another question to be answered: why is a big corporation like 3M turning to crowdfunding, which is usually the avenue for small startups who don't have access to other means?
Van Alsyne says the company wants to collaborate with users to improve the product. In October 2018, the company will seek feedback from its backers on the software and hardware, and then go back to redevelopment and refine what it already has.
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In February 2019, 3M will then begin final testing before pumping out final units for a June 2019 shipment. When asked where the crowdfunding money would go, 3M said it does not disclose sales and financial information.
Regardless, if your respiratory health is something that concerns you – perhaps allergies drive you bonkers or you live in an city with bad smog – then the 3M Respiratory Tracker could be an interesting way to help yourself. Plus, with a big company like 3M behind it it's hard to believe you'd be scammed and left out to dry.