It was a great honour to be invited to present the opening plenary at the Quantified Self Europe Conference in Amsterdam at which I was asked to speak to the attendees about sensors for wearable technology.
Quantified Self “self knowledge through numbers” is a meet up organisation for people who are interested in self-tracking and enjoy sharing their experiences, plus listening to the research and techniques of others too. Groups are held in a show and tell arrangement and attendees take turns in presenting their research, tools and methods. I attend the London meet-ups , they’re very insightful, friendly and great for bouncing ideas & info.
Here’s my slides…
During my presentation I introduced the audience to the LilyPad Arduino, the sewable microcontroller that I use with e-textiles & electronic components for most of my wearable tech, with some of my insights into what I feel makes this microcontroller fabulous, followed by some thoughts on what could be improved.
My talk then looked at the main components for wearables and a brief explanation of what they do, in particular sensors and actuators for which I created a graphic to show some of the most prominent user areas of these components and which components they’re mostly using (in my humble opinion). For me at least, this helps me consider where funding for wearables is going and also what’s being created, and by whom. I gave a few examples of existing projects that include sensors and that I feel are rather exciting and inspirational – looking at one example per usage area.
Finally in my summing up, I offered my thoughts on wearables and e-textiles as an emerging technology and perhaps what improvements could be made.
I enjoyed the QS conference and I was pleased at how many hardware prototype talks and breakout sessions there were. I attended a great breakout session on hardware prototyping where I had a good chinwag with fellow engineers and designers.
During the talks, I was introduced to a very nice example of a piece of wearable tech in development by Hind Hobeika called Butterfleye – which are swimming goggles that allow the wearer to monitor their heart rate and gives real time feedback to the wearer via a visual system.
There were also many talks from QS-ers on different aspects of self-monitoring and personal stories about what they’d experimented with and conclusions in terms of their own tracking. For example, I enjoyed Chia Hwu’s talk on why she’s banned from drinking caffeine – which turned out to be an engaging story on genetics and how some people metabolise caffeine slower than others, she had a similar story to tell about alcohol and genetics – both substances send me a bit loopy, so I was nodding from the back of the room and we had an affirming chat afterwards. There’s a nice write-up of it on QS which also mentions Martha Rotter’s interesting story of her investigation into food allergies in relation to skin complaints.
I had a lovely time at QS EU and it was great to meet people I had chatted to on Twitter such as organisers Gary Wolf and Alex Carmichael, as well as very interesting researchers such as Kiel Gilleade whose Body Blogger work monitoring his heart rate is right up my street, as I have my own hacks looking at heart rate and social interaction such as ‘You Make My Heart Flutter‘. Plus Kiel had an informative and entertaining tale to tell about the moments of stress he’s given himself and his friends who are able to watch his heart rate online at and jump to all sorts of conclusions! I’ve managed to freak myself out too by experimenting with wearing heart rate monitors outside the gym, so was smiling at Kiel’s tales.
If you’d like to view some of the personal self-tracking presentations from Quantified Self EU, including all the examples I mention above, Ernesto Ramirez (who also did a great job of being main stage tech manager at the conference) has posted 33 of them on slideshare for you to peruse
And if you fancy a bit of Quantified Self action yourself there are tons of QS groups springing up all over the world, check the QS site and if there isn’t one in your area you could always start one up!