Big data may be a rising star in health care but small data can play a powerful role, too. At the TEDMED conference on Wednesday, Deborah Estrin, a computer science professor at New York City’s Cornell Tech, gave a compelling case for how your “digital exhaust,” including location data, searches and social media posts, could provide a valuable window into your wellbeing.
“We’re continuously generating digital breadcrumbs from the services we interact with,” she said. But “there are no existing vehicles that package that data about me in a format that’s useful for me and that make it accessible to me. [And] there should be because there’s a lot that I can learn about my personal health from my digital behavior.”
Search engines, social networks and mobile carriers capture and analyze that data to serve up advertising, improve services and provide personalization. But delivered to the user, Estrin said, that data could generate a “digital social pulse” for tracking health in more implicit ways than Fitbits (see disclosure), Nike Fuelbands and other quantified self-type devices.