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DIY goes ‘good for you’ in 2012: novel apps and devices will increasingly let consumers discreetly track and manage their health by themselves.

The Do It Yourself trend is not going to slow down in 2012. Now, there are two kinds of DIY: the kind (most!) consumers hate and the kind they love. For 2012, the latter category will show endless innovation driven by, what else, technology, which in turn feeds off a never-ending desire among consumers to be in control. And while innovative DIY spottings keep pouring in (check out true DIY luggage check-in at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport), for this 2012 overview we’re focusing on DIY and health, as countless new apps and devices are actively targeting consumers keen on preventing, examining, improving, monitoring and managing their health. In fact, Apple’s App Store currently offers 9,000 mobile health apps (including nearly 1,500 cardio fitness apps, over 1,300 diet apps, over 1,000 stress and relaxation apps, and over 650 women’s health apps) and by mid-2012, this number is expected reach 13,000 (Source: MobiHealthNews, September 2011).

Other positive implications for consumers tracking their own state of health include less necessity for potentially intrusive and embarrassing trips to the doctor, or for those that do need medical attention and supervision, a much more convenient and accessible way for their doctor to keep a remote eye on any troublesome conditions or changes.

Some further stats: research company Technavio predicts that the global mobile health applications market will reach USD 4.1 billion by 2014, up from USD 1.7 billion in 2010. So, what can you do to make life easier, if not healthier for your customers in 2012? Some examples to get you going:

  • Released in November 2011, Jawbone’s Up is a wristband personal tracking device that tracks a user’s moving, eating and sleeping patterns. The device syncs with an iPhone app, and users can set the device to vibrate when they have been inactive for a period, compete against friends and even earn real life rewards for completing activity challenges.

  • Pain Free Back, an interactive back pain relief product, lets users enter specific data as they’re taken on a guided discovery about their back pain. Exercise solutions are offered afterwards.

  • The Play It Down app enables users to test their hearing. The app offers several interactive features including 'The Ear Knob' that lets friends compare who can hear the highest frequencies, and 'The Volume Zone' which measures sound volume in decibels.
  • The Digifit Ecosystem is a suite of Apple apps designed for those with an active lifestyle. It can record heart rate, pace, speed and power. Data can also be uploaded to and managed via training sites such as Training Peaks and New Leaf.

  • Withings' Blood Pressure Monitor plugs into an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch and takes the user’s blood pressure. Data can be sent directly to a doctor or published (confidentially) on the Web.

  • Skin Scan is an app which allows users to scan and monitor moles over time, with the aim of preventing malignant skin cancers. The app tells users if a visit to their doctor or dermatologist is advisable.

  • Lifelens has created a smartphone app to diagnose malaria. The app can analyze a magnified image of a drop of blood (captured via a simple finger prick) and identify malarial parasites.

  • October 2011 saw US automotive company Ford demonstrate three apps offering in-car health monitoring. The sample apps use Ford’s SYNC Applink software to enable drivers to access certain mobile health apps while driving to keep track of chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma and hay fever.

  • US-based ad agency SapientNitro launched an augmented reality (AR) app called Lungs in July 2011 to show smokers the damage caused by cigarettes. Users can control settings to reflect their own experience based on factors such as their age and how many cigarettes they smoke each day; these all impact on both the visual representation and 'time taken for lungs to recover' statistic.
  • And there's more, more, more: In October 2011, AT&T announced it will begin selling clothes embedded with health monitors, able to track the wearer's vital signs (including heart rate and body temperature) and upload them to a dedicated website. And nonprofit the X Prize Foundation is co-sponsoring a USD 10 million award for the best mobile device allowing consumers to diagnoze their own diseases.