Bill Day is the platform evangelist for RunKeeper, a Boston-based start-up that helps users track and obtain their fitness goals. I asked Bill to share with me his thoughts on how data is changing how people exercise, work towards fitness goals, and monitor their health.
Castro: As a runner myself, I am a huge fan of RunKeeper. Can you tell me how RunKeeper got started?
Day: One of our founders, Jason Jacobs, was training for a marathon and realized that there had to be a better way to track and understand his training and performance than the very limited options available at the time. He pulled together a small team to build an iPhone app to solve that problem, and the timing was great as we were able to launch in the very early days of the App Store.
Castro: RunKeeper recently launched the Health Graph platform. Can you explain what that is?
Day: The Health Graph provides an open platform for health and fitness data portability, available for free to developers everywhere. It allows users to bring all aspects of their health and fitness into a common repository for understanding how the different things they are doing including exercise, nutrition, sleep, and more affect their health. There are currently more than 100 partners who have launched apps, sensors, and services integrated with the Health Graph and millions of RunKeeper users with Health Graph accounts who can take advantage of those interconnections.
Castro: What kind of apps and use cases do you expect to see with the Health Graph platform over the next few years as new (and cheaper) sensors become available?
Day: We expect sensors to become ever cheaper and more “invisible” to consumers, a part of the background fabric of our devices, environments, clothes, etc. As they do, the need for a common platform to make sense of the tremendous rise in data about our health becomes ever more important. We see people tracking and correlating all kinds of interesting things about themselves via the Health Graph, and not just those things supported via the platform today (see http://healthgraph.com for more on the API and what it enables now). We believe a bottom-up, consumer centric approach will revolutionize health and fitness for millions of people as they suddenly have the data and tools to make sense of what’s going on inside their own bodies in a way never before possible.
Castro: How has the availability of more data changed how people work towards their health and fitness goals?
Day: Data exposes both where you are at, and whether your assumptions and choices have been working for or against you, very plainly. As people get data about their health, and more importantly as they have systems and apps such as RunKeeper to help guide them in understanding and using that data to make better choices, they are dramatically empowered to improve their own wellbeing. Data enables proactive avoidance of health problems. This is a complete revolution versus the reactive, fix-what’s-wrong-now approach that’s traditionally been taking by the healthcare industry and medicine.
Castro: What kind of features should we expect next from RunKeeper?
Day: This year we’ve done a lot of work to help our community connect their fitness activities and other health data with their friends. Expect to see us take that interconnectedness even further as we build out the personal trainer in your pocket!
“5 Q’s on Data Innovation” is part of an ongoing series of interviews for Data Innovation Day by ITIF Senior Analyst Daniel Castro. If you have a suggestion for someone who should be featured, send an email to Daniel Castro at firstname.lastname@example.org.