New Scientist, 10 January 2014

New lifelogging devices can be meshed with data from the crowd to tackle hard-to-answer questions about human health and behaviour.

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YOU'D be forgiven for thinking that lifelogging is all about self-obsessive introspective analysis. But it's about to open out. In 2014, it promises to have a wider impact as a load of new apps and technologies connect your data with other aspects of your life, and the lives of others.

That's partly due to the rise of wireless logging devices. Jawbone of San Francisco, for instance, released its UP24 wristband in the US in December and will launch it in Europe soon, while Nike has updated its Fuel band (pictured). These use Bluetooth to continually and remotely upload movement data to a smartphone or tablet.

Narrative, a miniature wearable camera that takes snaps at frequent intervals, is due to launch this year, too. It provides you with a searchable, shareable database of photos. The idea is to allow people to log constantly, without thinking about which moments matter – and then to retrieve any of those events or memories, from weddings to petty squabbles.

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Such tracking also means your data could be used in conjunction with the other wireless devices starting to come on the market, such as lamps, speakers and even coffee machines. This joined-up approach will mean your sleep-tracker could be set to turn the lights on only once you are fully rested, judged by how you're moving, or to tell your wireless coffee machine to brew a strong cup after a restless night.

Lifelogging is also acquiring an altruistic edge. By tapping into people's desire to monitor the minutiae of their own lives and asking them to share it, it is now possible to crowdsource data which can be used to explore hard-to-answer questions.

Take Glow, a fertility app which allows would-be mothers to log their menstrual cycles, health, and other information – even what sex positions they use. The app calculates individual users' percentage probability of getting pregnant on any given day. In November, Glow joined forces with makers of the popular diet-tracking app Myfitnesspal, so that they can analyse the relationship between body-mass index and how long it takes to get pregnant. "We are taking a big data approach. How is fertility success or failure affected by diet?" says Glow co-founder Mike Huang. "It's the kind of data that medical advisers do not have." The plan is to link up with other apps too – pedometers and body temperature trackers, for example – to add to the data... Keep reading at Newscientist.com