My Prisoner Tag


Posted by in May's Magazine

SpringFitness by Tracy Griffen

zzzzz zzzz. The vibration from my wristband wakes me from a deep slumber. I won’t tell you my dreams, but this is what dreams (or nightmares) are made of. My heart rate, I’m told, is 51bpm. Nice and low start to the day.

As my steps are measured down the hall to the corridor, I select suitable morning music from my wrist. It suggests ‘Happy Days’ playlist. It wants me to be in a good mood.

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Sitting at the kitchen table, I wake up my phone and add in my breakfast: muesli, homemade 45g, semi-skim milk 100mL, teaspoon wildflower honey. I could always copy and paste my breakfast from the previous day, but I like the ceremony of entering it each morning – my fuel for the day. 

In the shower, my wrist vibrates again, a message: first client is running late. Phew, an extra few minutes to squeeze in extra emailing. 

THIS IS NOT THE LIFE I WANT

I recently tagged myself for a week, regularly submitting personal information to a datapool. A Garmin Vivosmart was a birthday present to myself. I needed to know what the hype was about, so I joined the masses and installed wearable tech on my whereabouts. The wearable tech also connected to my devices (phone + laptop).

The activity monitor picks up heart rate using a green flashing laser emanating from the back of the watch. It’s uses photoplethysmography (PPG), the measurement of artery volume using reflected light. My other half freaked when he saw the flickering light. It looks like a barcode scanner. My pulse is my personal barcode. 

Unused as I am to wearing a watch 24/7, I started to have weird dreams about escaping from shackles. The device was also monitoring my sleep. Do I need to know whether or not I’m an insomniac? The vibrating wristband alarm was alarming the first time it woke me at 6am (anything that wakes me at 6am is alarming). 

Connected to Strava, GPS, so it knows where I am.

Connected to myfitnesspal, so it knows what I’m eating.

Connected to a heart rate monitor, so it knows when I am moving.

Next I’ll have optical projections on my retina, to help me navigate with Google maps. It’s not that far away. Oh hang on; there was Google Glass back in 2013. Now weirdly discontinued. 

It’s not unfeasible that wearing an activity monitor will become mandatory for health insurance. In fact, I’ve heard on the grapevine that a large insurer is working with Edinburgh University to develop technology to do this. Imagine it, your heart rate and vital statistics fed back to ‘Big Brother’. In fact on March 21 this year there was a BBC news story (Health apps pose ‘unprecedented’ privacy risks.) Which stated:

“Using popular health apps could mean private information about medical conditions is not kept confidential, researchers warn.

“Of 24 health apps in the BMJ study, 19 shared user data with other companies, including Facebook, Google and Amazon. …And data was shared despite developers often claiming they did not collect personally identifiable information.” 

Scary stuff. Especially since consumers are unwittingly buying into this voluntarily.

In the future a wristwatch might know when you’re streaming Netflix, and the heart rate monitor could even tell if you’re scared enough in the scary bits of a film, then turn up the volume to boost the BOO!!

Extrapolating further – when reaching #endoflife an activity monitor transmits a lack of activity, indeed a pulse, to a central intelligence agency, who then prepare an End of Life (death) certificate and a heli-hearse to your home.

The irony is this fancy gadget failed the Griffen test. It doesn’t have a simple stopwatch. As a Personal Trainer, a stopwatch is essential. For circuits, timing ‘the plank’ and timing runs. 

I felt liberated when I removed the Garmin Vivosmart from my wrist. Sometimes there is such a thing as too much information

Speaking of runs, there’s a growing number of people who realise that going for a run (or a walk) in a greenspace is a therapeutic thing to do. I don’t need to know how many steps it was to remember the sunshine on my back, the smell of the sea, the birds twittering.

Over the experimental week, I grew to resent my activity monitor, calling it my prisoner tag. Steps and number of flights of stairs climbed are interesting statistics, but don’t necessarily help motivate the individual to exercise. It’s more like “oh, I did 12,000 steps, 2,000 extra from what I need, so I can eat this blueberry muffin.” It was a happy Tracy that removed her prisoner tag and flung it away (actually, I’m selling it, wanna buy a nearly-new Garmin?).

I felt liberated when I removed it from my wrist. Sometimes there is such a thing as too much information. It is quite cute; my lonely phone desperately keeps trying to reconnect with it… I’ll stick to my old-school Casio, thanks.

Twitter: @tracygriffen

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