Predictive modeling – an interview with Datarella CEO Joerg Blumtritt

Most of the time, we at Datarella deal with the very near future: what will be the most likely thing that individuals want or what they are up to next? We use mathematical models to predict human behavior. But not only human behavior is what Datarella is interested in. Research papers, internal customer data and external data are being used by Datarella to predict probabilities of success of specific products. We detecs patterns, weaknesses and events in behavior and product design and – together with our customers – we define workarounds, optimizations or completely new data-driven products.

Datarella People: Max Gotzler, Basketballer & Entrepreneur

Here is the transcript of the Datarella (DR) interview with Maximilian ‚Max‘ Gotzler at the Quantified Self Conference 2014 in Amsterdam.

DR

At the Quantified Self Conference 2014 in Amsterdam, we’re together with Maximilian Gotzler, semi-professional basketballer and Berlin-based entrepreneur. Max, could you introduce yourself and tell us why you are here at the Quantified Self conference?

Max
First, I’m personally interested in Quantified Self: I want to know what’s new and how everything is evolving. Then, I held a presentation about a self-experiment about testosterone. And last but not least, I have presented my own startup biotrackr in an office hour.

DR
A self-experiment on testosterone – that sounds pretty interesting. Can you tell us more about that?

Max
It all started last year during some sort of a winter depression, when my blood test a relatively low level of testosterone. Since then I’ve tried to enhance this level by changing my nutrition and some aspects of my lifestyle, and I’ve presented the results here at the conference yesterday.

DR
What are the results?

Max
The results show that nutrition, sleep and stress have a big impact on the hormone balance, and especially on the testosterone level. Those three factors massively add to your well-being.

DR
You profit from your experience as a semi-professional basketballer, playing in Germany and the United States in building your startup biotrackr. Can you tell us about that?

Max
Sure. Biotracker provides a simple, easy-to-use process to measure your blood values at home. The user gets a test kit, takes her blood probe and sends it back to a laboratory. They get their results vizsuLized on our online platform.

The idea originates in competitive sports: as you said, I have been playing basketball, and the idea was to optimize performance by measuring several body-related parameters. And now I try to provide everybody with this competive sports concept to optimze health levels.

DR
Your test focuses on measuring a user’s Vitamine D level. What are the effects of the Vitamine D level on the body?

Max
Vitamine D holds many roles within the human body. It isn’t really a vitamine, but it’s a so-called secosteroid which evolves into a hormone. It has a big impact on the immune system, muscle growth, bone strength – and on your mood. In Germany and in other rather cold countries, most people have a Vitamine D deficiency – especially during the winter. And we want to make people aware of that. Since by measuring, you can spir people to change their behavior.

DR
Does that mean we all should sunbathe? I mean, that would speak against conventional wisdom.

Max
You should leave plain sunshine after 10-15 minutes or to put on some lotion. But I redommend to sunbathe the very first minutes without any lotion because then, the formerly inactive Vitamine D will be activated by the UVB rays and then can take full effect.

DR
Here at the Quantified Self conference all discussions are about self-tracking and knowing yourself better by measuring your body data. Which data do you track yourself?

Max
I’m very interested in sleep tracking: every night, I try to measure how long I sleep, how long it took me to fall asleep and how man phases of deep sleep I had. I want to optimize that. Additionally, I track my weight, body fat percentage, and my movements. And whereas I track sleep actively, I track all those other data passively.

DR
Ok, that means that you don’t invest much of your time in tracking. Which is your favorite tracking app?

Max
I really like Runkeeper which also shows your actuall running paths. Then I like an a called Mappiness, a mood app which asks you about your mood twice a day. And last but not least I really like the Jawbone UP app.

DR
Max, thank you very much!

Max
Very welcome!

Datarella People: Dan Berglund, Senior Developer at Narrative

Here’s the transcript of the Datarella (DR) interview with Dan Berglund of Stockholm-based life-logging startup Narrative.

DR
At the Quantified Self Conference 2014 in Amsterdam, we’re together with Dan Berglund from Swedish startup Narrative. Dan, could you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about Narrative?

Dan
Sure. I work as a Software Engineer at Narrative, a software and hardware company which makes a very tiny mobile camera that takes photos of everything you see. Photos are taken every 30 seconds, then they’re aggregated and we show you a meaningful representation of your data life.

DR
You’re wearing a narrative camera. Could you show it to us and explain what this camera does in comparison with a typical camera?

Dan
Yes. Here it is. It’s working automatically – so you wear it at your shirt or jacket, and it takes photos every 30 seconds. If you want to turn it off, you just put it into your pocket. Then we offer a service, which is connected with the camera: it aggregates all photos and tries to find the best ones by grouping together similar photos. So at the end, you have a diary of your life.

DR
What is the typical use case for the narrative? To automatically shoot photos during parties?

Dan
Sure – that would be one use case: special occasions like parties or when people are travelling. In general, people are interested to have photos made of their whole lives. Especially here at the Quantified Self – that’s the purpose of this crowd.

DR
Dan, you are the most senior developer at Narative – ars you also a co-founder?

Dan
No, I’m not a co-founder, but I have been with the company almost from the beginning and I’m a senior developer at Narrative.

DR
Can you tell us a bit about the challenges you have been cobfronted with during the early development phase of Narrative?

Dan
Yeah. Most developers of our team of 30 have a software background. And it was quite hard to understand how hard it is to develop hardware: you have long release cycles with long delays. And when you have to redisign something you have an additional delay of weeks or months. And this happend quite a few time during development.That, for sure, was the hardest part.

DR
Yesterday, your colleague Eric told me that you manufacture in Taiwan. How hard was it to set up this manufacturing process for a startup working out of Stockholm, Sweden?

Dan
We actually got some help from another startup called MuteWatch which uses the same suppliers and plants. Without them it would have been much harder, and still, it’s quite hard to put all relevant things together and build a streamlined production process.

DR
Apart from wearing your own Narrative camera, do you use other life-logging or self-tracking wearables?

Dan
I have tried out some passive tracking apps like Moves to track my movements – and similar ones- but I wouldn’t call myself a big life-logger or quantified self person. I’m more the kind of a ’special events user‘.

DR
Thank you very much, Dan!

Dan
Welcome!

[Here you can see Datarella CEO @jbenno life-logging with the narrative]

Datarella People – Klaus Bscheid, Wearable Tech Entrepreneur

Here’s the transcript of this Datarella (DR) interview with Klaus Bscheid:

DR
Klaus, can you tell us a little bit about ambiotex

Klaus
Sure! ambiotex has developed a textile with integrated sensors. With these sensors we can track a genuine one-lead ECG. Based on that ECG we can extrapolate not only the pulse rate but a heart rate variability (HRV). At the same time we quantify the user’s breathing rate as well as her breathing volume. Based on the analysis of the combination of these data we can draw many very interesting conclusions. In particular, we think that HRV analysis is useful for the regeneration of the human body, for insights into coping with stress, etc.

DR
Our textile is an undershirt, since it should be the very first layer being directly on your skin. You can wear this shirt during your sports activities as well as in your everyday life. So what do we do with all this body data? If it’s a sportsman, we can tell him his regeneration level, i.e. we can tell him whether it makes sense to exercise or not. This is important since many athletes don’t really know when to exercise and they might harm themselves. Additionally, we can tell the athlete on which level he should train: we know his individual aerobic threshold in realtime and can support him in planning and optimizing his workout.

If you think of the overworked manager, we can tell him when it’s too much for this day.

DR
That sounds as if I don’t have to visit the doctor because my health is constantly tracked by my Ambiotech shirt. Being a technology company, how can you provide this kind of medical support – do you cooperate with experts in this field?

Klaus
In the first step, our product will not be positioned as a health(care) product, since we first have to gain experiences and to acquire the appropriate certificates. We think that we are able to track and analyze many health-related data. We certainly would not submit that we were able to detect an imminent heart attack, but that’s definitely on our agenda. We want to enable the user to react on corresponding signals.

For the time being, our goal ist to provide our users with feedback on data he isn’t aware of. After all, that’s the goal of the Quantified Self: to get permanent feedback on my body’s functions. I don’t have to react, but I can react. This said, it’s important to provide the user with the appropriate analyses – since he won’t be able to interprete the 5 heart rate variability variables by himself. Here we are working with algorithms enabling meaningful analyses of these data.

DR
Klaus, you’re pretty deep into that topic self-tracking and yet, you don’t wear a wristband or a smart watch. Do you track yourself at all?

Klaus
Sure – I have tested some of these wristbands. And for some time, I liked it pretty much. But, after a while, I got bored by these wristbands. Also, I tested some smart watches. But I haven’t found the right one for me – still waiting for that one…  But, I’m pretty sure that there’s a bright future for smart watches which cover a broad spectrum of quantifying and analyzing. However, we see that you have to collect certain parameters from your body directly and that’s our focus.

DR
Thank you very much, Klaus!

Klaus
Thank you!

[Please note: ambiotex is in test mode and will be launched summer 2014]

Datarella People – Helge F. Gruetjen, Boat Racer & Physicist

Cambridge PhD student Helge Gruetjen was a chain-smoker, weighting 120 kilograms, who started to row for the Cambridge University Boat Club in 2010 to become one of a team of five trying to beat the Oxford squad.

He had set himself an „unrealistic goal“: to lose more than 25 kilograms while bulking up, simultaneously. In the last 2.5 years the 26-year-old managed to lose 0.5 kilograms per week, by stopping smoking, tracking his food intake, sleep patterns and more, using an Excel sheet, 4 hours of training per day…..and a lot of will power.

„I knew I had to become very fit within 2.5 years. And I had to lose weight in a very soft and sustainable way.“

But how to motivate oneself to constantly lose weight during 2.5. years? For Helge, to be part of the Cambridge boat race team, was the biggest motivating factor. First, he analyzed his own behavior: which aspects of his life are obstacles to that goal and had to be changed. These were: smoking, exercise behavior, eating behavior, sleep patterns, etc.

„We have to get up at 5:45am and start our day with the first round of training. Then I head to my office. Then, in the afternoon, the second part of the training follows. We spend 6 hours per day on preparation for and the training itself.“

From slugabed to earlybird, from a lover of sweets to quit sugar totally: combined with daily exercise these have been the changes for Helge to lose 500 grams per week, the equivalent of about 500 calories less per day. Not being aware of actual quantified self and wearable tech gadgets as wristbands, etc., Helge used a classic Excel sheet to collect his personal data day for day. Being a theoretical physicist, he naturally is more interested in data than in nicely drawn charts. But he really likes the Quantified Self and thinks that it can play an instrumental part for many people who want to change their lives.

Helge Gruetjen

 

„I had my lows – and it was quite hard. But having managed to stick to my own rules for a certain time, I have seen the results: my plan really seems to work. Seeing the results and knowing that your plan is working gives you the willpower to move on, to reach the next level. An then I realized, that I did not really miss something after I had changed my lifestyle. After all, it’s a fun thing to do!“

Helge has been supported by his fellow boat race team members – he thinks that sharing experiences with like-minded persons is a crucial part of any lifestyle changes. Mutual motivational pushes are important in a team. However, for Helge the individual and personal goal is the most important aspect:

So here’s Helge Gruetjen’s recommendation for all of you who want to lose weight: start moving, start exercising, start today! Stay realistic, set yourself realistic goals! Check whether you reached your goals on a daily basis!

We could rephrase that: start with quantifying yourself today!

Datarella People – Michael Ricks, Self-Tracker, Investment Banker, Inventor

Here’s the transcript of this Datarella (DR) interview with Michael Ricks, self-tracker, investment banker and inventor.

DR
Michael, you are an American living in Munich, Germany. Could you tell us a little about you?

Michael
Ok – so, what am I? A guy who is trying to get the most out of life. I’m a father of four kids who are pretty active. I work as an investment banker and inventor, and otherwise I’m just enjoying life.

DR
How do you track yourself?

Michael
Probably like everyone does. I get up in the morning and think about what my day is going to bring. Every day I do a thousand repetitions of something or a combination of those thousand things. So, most days I start with a hundred stit-ups in bed! And that’s the beginning of tracking what I’m doing there in the course of the day. Then I figure out how many hours I’ve slept, and then I decide how to spend my day: I look at my calendar, divide up my time, dibide up my activity… and start!

DR
What reason would there be to stop tracking yourself?

Michael
If tracking became something which consumed more time and energy than it delivered in terms of benefit, I’d stop.

DR
That’s easy! Should more people track themselves?

Michael
Well, I think that people who don’t track are missing out. Usually you can see the symptoms of people’s failings to track their own bodies and activities. You see it on simple things: people being obese, you see it on more difficult things, e.g. people not being successful in their business activities simply because they’re not using their time sensibly.

DR
In which situations does tracking make especially sense?

Michael
I think it especially makes sense in terms of things that are life or death. So, I want to know whether I’m getting the right nutrition I need, I want to know if I’ve got some sort of dread disease that can be cured. I also want to keep up with my body’s development over time, if my organs are all doing their job. Finally, I want to keep myself on track, keep myself honest.

DR
Do you share your data?

Michael
That depends on what you mean with „sharing my data“: do I post it on Facebook for everyone ego read? No. But do I make my data available anonymously? We all do that probably a lot more than we think – so my blood tests is certainly information being compared in the lab I have my blood tests done in. Thats the same with some other things we do – it simply becomes public information.

DR
Sharing data can help people. It can save lives. Is sharing data there fore a social obligation?

Michael
Hm. An example of that would be the case of someone who has leukemia and a transfer of bone marrow from an appropriate donor could save their lives. But in order to find out who the appropriate donor is you have to know many more details than you see from looking from the outside. So people do have to get tested.

And I think it makes sense. I’m also a blood donor, and there you would got to have information that’s relevant for both parties in order to make sure that someone would get what they need.

DR
How has tracking changed your behavior?

Michael
I guess, I try to be purposeful in my life. And by tracking I’m able to better understand whether I’m really being purposeful. I then can think about what I’m doing with my time, what I’m doing with my body, and – in the end – have a better idea whether I’m delivering on my life mission.

DR
Cool – now the last one: what is your favorite tracking app and/or what must a tracking app offer?

Michael
Hm. I would honestly say I don’t have a favorite, yet, because I have to use different ways of tracking information in order to achieve all of my objectives. Right now, I’m using a wristband, the Jawbone Up, and – with all of its pitfalls, the device is able to keep me up and moving, not sitting around during the course of the day. It let’s me know whether or not I had a good, restful sleep, and how much of it. So that’s the one I use the most for right now.

DR
Great! Thank you very much!

Michael
Thank you!

Datarella People – Florian Schumacher, QS Evangelist

Here’s the transcript of this Datarella (DR) interview with Florian Schumacher, Founder QS Meetups, Germany.

DR
Florian Schumacher, you started the first Quantified Self QS Meetup in Germany. Could you introduce yourself and tell us about your QS approach?

Florian
When I learned about Quantified Self in 2011, I immediately felt attracted by its very positive culture. Consequently, I started the QS meetups in Berlin and Munich in 2012 which is a lot of fun. Besides, I am a trendscout of Wearable Technologies AG. Here, I’m dealing with all devices you can wear and the sensors which collect behavioral data.

DR
What do you track yourself and how do you do that?

Florian
I regularly and passively track my weight, my body fat, my physical activities and my sleep – all those data are collected automatically, so that’s completely effortless. Then, I manually collect sample data on my blood pressure, blood sugar, my girth, and I try to keep an eye on my haemogram. This, I do on a weekly basis. Then I track other data as time, which is quite sophisticated, since it’s not automated at all and I track everything: every project, every lunch, every activity finds its place in my calendar. So I have a good overview of how I spend my time, and how my time is devoted to my hobbies.

DR
You told us that you have lost weight – voluntarily, that is – that means tracking has very specific consequences on your life!

Florian
Yes, indeed. I have been testing QS devices for three years now. While I kind of just tested theses devices before, I have started to use them for special purposes last year. I have been trying to lose weight, I’m on a special diet and let my ape count my calorie intake. Then I check what nutritients my food actually contains. Then I exercise regularly – and by tracking all that I can understand my body’s changes very well – and I like that very much!

DR
Then for you QS is more a motivational thing, rather than a supervisory body…

Florian
QS is a control body, but more in a positive sense: by comparing different measured values I learn and get a better understanding of my body and, consequently, I get motivated and become happy even if sometimes this way is somewhat hard.

DR
Do you share your tracking data with others?

Florian
Yes, but I only share some of my data: e.g. I share my steps within my Fitbit community – but only my steps – since for me these are indiscriminate data. All other data I would share with my doctor rather than with my friends.

DR
So you draw a line at sharing your data. Could you elaborate on that a little more?

Florian
I think that’s very personal everybody should define what data to share individually. Sharing your data can be very motivating if people have mutual goals. There are studies showing that everybody will be far more successful if all share their data which each other; e.g. people lose two to three times more weight if they share their goals and data. That means in case of very personal data (e.g. illnesses) I would share my data within a closed group of likeminded people, but I think everybody should decide that by herself – and there should be some control mechanisms preventing abuse of this data.

DR
At QS13, Gary Wolf [Co-founder of the Quantified Self] said that Tracking and data sharing would become a social responsibility to provide access to important learnings to everybody. Do you agree with Gary?

Florian
I don’t think that self-tracking should become a, obligation for everybody. But what I strongly support is the anonymous sharing of data to realize potential benefits in scientific research and pharmaceutical product development. I’m sure that this will promote our culture to the next level.

DR
A last question: which tracking app or gadget do you like most?

Florian
I really like this Basis band, since it automatically tracks my sleep, my movement and it accurately calculates my calorie intake. At the moment the Basis is the most accurate tracking device on the market and I like it very much!

DR
Thank you!

Florian
Welcome!