Health And Fitness Trackers Are Becoming A Lot More Granular
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Health And Fitness Trackers Are Becoming A Lot More Granular

Many people have become accustomed to devices quantifying their steps or heart rate. That’s just the beginning.

By Laura Cooper
Wed, Jan 19, 2022 12:06pmGrey Clock 5 min

From counting 10,000 steps to reminding when to stand or take a few deep breaths, many Americans have become accustomed to devices quantifying their progress toward health goals. Is this just the beginning?

Businesses and researchers are dreaming up the next generation of methods to create and quantify personal data, with the aim of using the information to boost health and happiness. Some technologies are in their infancy, including machines that sit in the home, passively scanning for early signs of illness. Others are in limited use. Still others, such as smart thermometers and blood-glucose monitors, are widespread, but their proponents see untapped potential in the data they collect.

These advances bring concerns about security, as sensitive information is beamed up to the cloud, and privacy, especially in cases where manufacturers own data about their customers’ health that the customers themselves can’t access. It’s still too early to know exactly which metrics correspond to improved health, or whether zealously tracking them itself has negative impacts.

Natural Medicine

Research has shown that time outdoors can benefit well-being—but do certain natural settings have an outsize effect? NatureQuant, based in Bend, Ore., is aiming to quantify time in nature. This week, the company released NatureDose, an app that tracks people’s time indoors and outdoors as they go about their daily routines. The app can map the types of nature a person passes, whether a lake or tree-lined city street, through phone sensors including GPS and accelerometers. That data is paired with NatureQuant’s mapping systems to determine a person’s proximity to natural elements. The app is being tested in clinical trials in universities, with the aim of determining how time in nature impacts anxiety and depression. Eventually, the company hopes, health professionals could use the data to prescribe time in nature, even tailoring recommendations by lifestyle, season and locale. For example, the app could alert users with vitamin D deficiencies to the best time to catch UV rays.

Watch Your Mouth

Dentists have long advised brushing teeth for two minutes twice a day. In the future, quantifying dental data, such as tracking acidity in the mouth, may help forecast cavities before they happen and draw connections between oral health and other health issues. For example, night guards or other devices that measure specific biomarkers in saliva could uncover disease, such as inflammation of the gums that is linked to diabetes, says Dr. Corneliu Sima, an assistant professor of oral medicine, infection and immunity at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine. Camera-enabled toothbrushes could serve as oral scanners, beaming real-time information to dentists, who could use machine learning to sift through the data to determine whether patients need to come in for a visit, he says.

Body of Water

The well-known admonition to drink eight glasses of water a day has persuaded many Americans to lug around water bottles in the hopes of satisfying their hydration needs. Hydration, after all, has been shown to benefit brain function, heart health, digestion and other bodily functions. Is eight glasses really the right number for everybody? In the future, connected devices could help assess how much water is the optimum amount for each individual. The PÜL SmartCap, a mobile-connected water-bottle cap, recently hit the market promising to help consumers set goals and track their hydration levels with an accompanying app.

In the Blood

Some people are wearing blood-glucose monitoring devices, which continuously measure blood sugar via a small device worn on the arm, even if they don’t have diabetes. Elevated or spiking blood sugar is linked to heart disease, stroke and diabetes, so proponents of blood-glucose monitors say that tracking blood sugar could help wearers personalize their diets and live healthier lives. The Levels software, for example, allows users to watch their glucose levels on an app as they eat different foods, exercise and sleep. Ultimately, the company envisions people having several biosensor streams to help them optimize cell function and predict disease, says Dr. Casey Means, the chief medical officer of Levels.

The Wearable You Don’t Need to Wear

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have created a wall-mounted, laptop-size box that sits in the home, analyzing electromagnetic waves around residents as a noninvasive way of gauging health metrics. Using machine learning, the device can track breathing, heart rate, movement, gait, time in bed and the length and quality of sleep—even through walls. Health organizations, hospitals and medical schools are using the device. It is being used in clinical studies for Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s and immune diseases and was used to monitor Covid-19 patients in isolation during the first wave of the pandemic. Dr. Dina Katabi, a professor at MIT’s computer science and artificial intelligence lab who led the project, says the boxes could be used in the homes of seniors and others to help detect early signs of serious medical conditions, and as an alternative to wearables.

 

Taking the Temperature

Thermometers are ubiquitous in households across the country. They are often the first medical tool that people consult once they start feeling sick. Aggregating those temperature readings and associated symptoms could someday quantify and diagnose illness at a population level. In the coming years, smart thermometers may be able to help determine whether patients have particular strains of flu or Covid-19, based on symptoms, temperature and other data collected in the area. Inder Singh, the founder of Kinsa, a San Francisco-based smart-thermometer company, says this kind of diagnosis could allow patients to bypass doctor visits and get medication quickly. Kinsa is working to turn its smart thermometers, introduced in 2013, into a system that detects outbreaks and tells people how and when they should seek treatment. The network has about 2.5 million thermometers in the U.S. so far.

Old Dog, New Tricks

Pet owners, including the many who adopted animals during the pandemic, are seeking to quantify the health of their furry friends as well. Whistle Fit, for example, offers a glimpse into a possible future for connected pet care. The 1.5-inch device affixes to a dog’s or cat’s collar and monitors its health, fitness and behaviour. Sensors collect data about a pet’s daily routine. Algorithms analyze the data to detect behavior tied to well-being, including playing, running, sleeping, exercising and drinking. After establishing a baseline, Whistle can determine whether a pet’s behaviour is changing. The owner can set exercise goals based on breed, age and weight. The company provides summaries to share with vets and alerts around behavioural problems like excessive licking or scratching.

The Right Amount of ZZZs

A plethora of products is already on the market to help people sleep. More futuristic offerings include robots that help lull patients to sleep with breathing exercises and “digital sleeping pills,” beamed through headbands that play music or soothing sounds when they sense users are about to wake up, says Dr. Seema Khosla, the medical director at the North Dakota Center for Sleep. Going forward, it would be helpful to have a bespoke assessment of how much sleep each individual needs, as opposed to the one-size-fits-all recommendation of eight hours, she says. Devices will likely be less clunky in the coming years, she says, sitting by the bedside with less need for physical contact with the sleeper.

 

Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: 13th, January, 2022.



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The Knight Frank Luxury Investment Index reveals investments of passion are paying strong dividends, in some areas at least

By Bronwyn Allen
Tue, Apr 9, 2024 4 min

Art was the investment of passion that gained the most in value in 2023, according to Knight Frank’s Luxury Investment Index (KFLII). This is the second consecutive year that art has risen the most among the 10 popular investments tracked by the index, up 11 percent in 2023 and 29 percent in 2022. Art was followed by 8 percent growth in jewellery, 5 percent growth in watches, 4 percent growth in coins and 2 percent growth in coloured diamonds last year.

The weakest performers were rare whisky bottles, which lost nine percent of their value, classic cars down six percent and designer handbags down four percent. Luxury collectables are typically held by ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UHNWIs) who have a net worth of US$30 million or more. Knight Frank research shows 20 percent of UHNWI investment asset portfolios are allocated to collectables.

In 2023, the KFLII fell for only the second time, with prices down 1 percent on average.

Despite record-breaking individual sales in 2023, a surge in financial market returns contributed to a shift in allocations impacting on luxury asset value,” the report said. “… our assessment reveals a need for an ever more discerning approach from investors, with significant volatility by sub-market.

Sebastian Duthy of AMR said the 2023 art auction year began with notable sales including a record price for a Bronzino piece. But confidence waned as the year went on.

“It was telling that in May, Sotheby’s inserted one of its top Old Master lots – a Rubens’ portrait – into a 20th Century Modern evening sale. But by then, it was clear that the confidence among sellers, set by the previous year’s record-busting figures, was ebbing away. In the same month, modern and contemporary works from the collection of the late financier Gerald Fineberg sold well below pre-auction estimates.”

The value of ultra contemporary or red-chip’ art contracted the most in 2023.

“Works by a growing group of artists born after 1980 have been heavily promoted by mega galleries and auction houses in recent years. With freshly painted works in excess of £100,000 almost doubling in 2022, it was little surprise that this sector was one of the biggest casualties last year. There is a risk there are now simply too many fresh paint artists with none really standing out.”

In the jewellery market, Mr Duthy noted that demand was strongest for coloured gemstones of exceptional quality, iconic signed period jewels, single-owner collections, and items with historic provenance in 2023. In the watches market, Mr Duthy said collectors chased the most iconic and rare timepieces.

A Rolex John Player Special broke the model record when it sold for £2 million at Sotheby’s in May, double the price for a similar example sold at Phillips in 2021,” he said.

Although whisky was the worst-performing collectable in 2023, it has delivered the highest return on investment among the 10 items tracked by the index over the past decade, up 280 percent. Andy Simpson of Simpson Reserved, said 2023 was a challenging year but the best of the best bottles gained 20 percent in value. In my opinion some bottles that lost significant value in 2023 will return through the next two years as they are simply so scarce and, right now at least, so undervalued, Mr Simpson said.

Whisky was the worst performing collectable in 2023 but it had highest return on investment over a 10-year period. Image: Shutterstock

Classic car expert Dietrich Hatlapa said the 6 percent fall in collectable vehicle values in 2023 followed a 22 percent surge in 2022. The strong performance of other investment classes such as equities may have dampened collectors’ appetites it’s a very small market so it only takes a minor change in portfolio allocations to have an effect, and there has also probably been a degree of profit taking. However, we have seen some marques like BMW (up 9 percent in value) and Lamborghini (up 18 percent), which appeal to a younger breed of collector, buck the trend in 2023.”

Mr Duthy said a dip in the share price of the top luxury handbag brands last Autumn appeared to spook investors. Last autumn it was possible to pick up an Hermès white Niloticus Himalaya Birkin in good condition for under £50,000. The recent slide reflects a general correction at the upper end that’s been underway for some time rather than changing attitudes to the harvesting of exotic skins.

According to Knight Frank’s Attitudes Survey, the top five investments of passion among Australian UHNWIs are classic cars, art and wine. Fine wine values gained just 1 percent in 2023 as the market continued its correction, said Nick Martin of Wine Owners. “It’s been a hell of a long run, so I’m not that surprised. Some wines from very small producers that had enjoyed the most exuberant growth have seen the biggest drops. It had got a bit silly, £50 bottles had shot up to £200 or £300.”

Favourite investments of passion: Australia vs Global

1. Classic cars (61 percent of Australian UHNWIs vs 38 percent of global UHNWIs)
2. Art (58 percent vs 48 percent)
3. Wine (48 percent vs 35 percent)
4. Watches (42 percent vs 42 percent)
5. Jewellery (18 percent vs 28 percent)

Best returns among investments of passion (10 years)

1. Whisky 280 percent
2. Wine 146 percent
3. Watches 138 percent
4. Art 105 percent
5. Cars 82 percent

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This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

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