Is stress tracking the future of well-being tech?

TECH RADAR, JUNE 2017

Wearable tech has come a long way from souped-up pedometers that congratulate you on reaching your 10,000 step goal a day and little else. 

Now wearables are well on their way to collecting more sophisticated data than we could have imagined a mere two years ago, like reading our glucose levels, keeping an eye on pollution in the air and measuring our body composition, just to name a few.

One trend that’s birthed a number of innovative startups, as well as making big tech brands sit up and take notice, is using wearables to gauge our mental state, whether that’s our level of focus, whether we’re feeling stressed or even our moods. 

Medical professionals have long pointed to the direct correlation between the long term impact stress and anxiety has on our general health. So it’s no surprise that tech companies claiming to paint an overall picture of our health are starting to use biometric feedback to improve our emotional wellbeing and stress just as much as our physical health and fitness. 

As well as that, there’s a general move towards people becoming more interested in their own well-being than ever before, as well as feeling empowered to take steps to change their lifestyles and make improvements themselves – whether that’s joining a gym or trying mindfulness meditation with the help of an app.

Finally, tech that allows us to find out more about what’s going on in our minds has improved. Wearables aren’t just fitted with accelerometers to count steps, but there are all kinds of sensors that can be put to good use in order to track, quantify and feedback information about our mental wellbeing – whether that’s through tracking your breath or reading EEG neurofeedback from your brain.  

So what does the future hold? Will a Fitbit for our mind be popular? What can we do with the data? And will everyone appreciate being told they’re stressed when they’re feeling stressed? 

To answer some of our burning questions about using tech to track our minds, we chatted to Neema Moraveji, the director of Stanford University’s Calming Technology Lab and the co-founder of Spire, one of the first wearables built to track wellbeing.