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Business - Written by on Monday, February 16, 2009 23:15 - 0 Comments

Doing more with our phones

The iPhone is an amazing peice of technology, to put it simply. Its applications range from the relatively useless (this Light Saber application), to the border-line illegal (card counting applications being used in casinos). Somewhere in between are those apps that are just plain useful (you don’t need examples). But how often do we use our cell/smart phones (iPhones or otherwise) for purposes that are more than simply practical? Do they in any way contribute to undeniable improvements in human health or quality of life?

What led me to this consideration was a conversation I recently had with a friend. Actually, it was more of a gleeful demonstration. In the midst of an ordinary conversation, my friend, holding his iPhone yells, “Oh yah check this out! 37 days, 17 minutes, and 5 seconds without smoking! Woo!” I’ve seen people excited about their phone’s latest trick, but this was different. And I’ve never shared in someone’s cell phone glee as much as I did on this occasion. It wasn’t because he had shown me the greatest or even most innovative app in the history of mankind/mobile communication. All he had shown me was a very simple app that read, “You have been a non-smoker for 37 days, 17 minutes, and 5 seconds.” This simple app had had a clear and profoundly positive effect on his life. Would he have had the same results had he written his goal to stop smoking on a post it note? I don’t think so.

This is a simple example, making use of some simple technology. But this story is a tidbit of evidence contrary to any notion that cell phones are nothing more than “annoying toys” (the readers of Wikinomics aren’t likely among those subscribing to this viewpoint, but we can all name 4 or 5 people who do).

Health care is already putting our digital companions into action in a number of innovative ways (the field of health informatics is a shining example). My friend has used a simple cell phone app to help him improve his health. The bottom line: thinking of cell phones as merely devices for playing ‘pointless games’ or calling loved ones from the grocery store completely limits their potential to be invaluable tools in areas like health informatics and health care.  


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