Improving Nutrition through Technology: Thoughts from the FiRe X Conference’s CTO Challenge
Tech Sheets - The High Tech Blog
Posted by Eric Openshaw on June 8, 2012
I spent last week at the tenth annual FiRe (Future in Review) Conference organized by the Strategic News Services (SNS) newsletter. This conference is focused on identifying signals and trends at the intersection of technology, science and economics. As a part of the conference, I participated on a team of technology leaders who got together to address one of the challenges facing our society today - "Creating the New Field of 'Nutritional Microanalysis': Inputs for the Quantified Self." The challenge was focused on creating a new field of medicine called Nutritional Microanalysis based on discovering, studying, sharing and using the chemical components of what we eat and drink. Our team was asked to describe the field and define a technical platform for the discovery and study of this field.
From left to right: Mark R. Anderson (SNS), Ty Carlson (Microsoft), Sridhar Jagannathan (Intuit), Andre de Fusco (Cynvenio Biosystems), Eric Openshaw (Deloitte), David Brin (scientist, inventor, author), Jerry M. Woodall (WoodallTech Inc), William C. Harris (Science Foundation Arizona)
What does the concept of quantifying oneself based on identifying and tracking the chemical components of what we eat and drink have to do with High Tech you ask? Well, the challenge was a timely representation of healthcare and technology coming together to help people maintain longer and healthier lives. A number of technology health solutions, such as gamification, on-line dashboards and communities, are already emerging to help consumers manage weight, make better decisions and stay motivated. For example, applications like Fooducate help shoppers make healthier choices in the grocery isle. With the mounting costs of healthcare, healthy eating is increasingly viewed as an important component of healthy living.
Sadly, we may not know as much as we think we do about the foods we eat. While eating fish is generally considered healthy, farm-raised fish often has less nutritional value than fish caught in the wild. Moreover, as scientists learn more about human genome, they discover that different individuals react and benefit from the same foods differently. Our genetic composition often dictates how we absorb and process nutrition. As a result, a more detailed and personalized analysis of what is good for each individual may be needed. That need is a foundation for this year’s challenge.
The team’s solution outlined a number of offerings that could emerge as scientists and technology entrepreneurs devise ways to understand the micro-composition of various foods and their impact on our health. Most of the potential solutions were reliant on mobility as the way to conveniently analyze food composition, track consumption and monitor personal / genetic compatibility. Increasing power of our handheld devices and effective use of analytics were viewed as keys to enabling this new field of medicine. Powered by the cloud, Big Data and machine learning, algorithms could help fine-tune individuals’ eating patterns based on their responses to various nutrients.
Inspired by Deloitte’s Center for the Edge research and thinking, our team envisioned an ecosystem developing around various tools and offerings. It was considered essential for technology companies, wellness center, healthcare payers, providers and employers to participate in this ecosystem. A new type of ecosystem player was forecasted to emerge. This new player, a health advisor, could serve as a coordinator of various nutritional, health and wellness needs for individuals.
This year’s CTO Challenge was a complex assignment based on using technology solutions to help individuals make better decisions around their nutrition and thus, health and wellness. Our recommendation not only outlined a path to products and services innovation, but also highlighted a potential technology platform. I am looking forward to learning how FiRe X participants will incorporate these outputs into their companies, products and services. I will not be surprised if during next year’s conference, we learn about new technologies and / or companies being developed as a result of this year’s challenge.
What are your thoughts on the intersection of health / wellbeing and technology?
For more information on the Center for the Edge’s research and publications, please see: http://www.deloitte.com/centerforedge
|Eric Openshaw is a principal in Deloitte Consulting and the U.S. Technology, Media and Telecommunications (TMT) Industry Leader. He has over 30 years of experience helping companies in the TMT space.|
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