While the Lyft example above is interesting, it made me realise that allowing apps to talk to each other via Google Now would essentially turn your smartphone into an IFTTT for your life. So rather than a generic Lyft alert, what if they combined a few apps? They could use my British Airways app to see I have an upcoming flight, Google maps to know when I’ve arrived in Munich, and my Gmail account to see where I am staying. There are probably specific hotel apps they could use too. Using this, rather than getting a generic get a car card, I get one that’s already personalised the quote to where I’m going.
Anticipation to diagnosis
The ultimate personal assistant would not only tell us what we expect, they would tell us things we never thought to consider. This would only be made possible by advanced pattern recognition, anticipation, and initiative beyond the possibility of a human.
What patterns do you already create but don’t currently correlate? If you feel sluggish or tired on a Thursday, we do not necessarily correlate that to something that you may be allergic to that you ate on Monday. Many people spend years with conditions such as gluten or lactose intolerance but never make the connection between what they eat and how they feel. Humans cannot easily track and analyse lots of data like that, computers can.
So how can Google tell you are pregnant? I am not a doctor but I suspect like the Target example, there may be early signs of pregnancy that we do not think about at the moment (biological or otherwise). For a start, there could be a process of first increasing the priority that a particular pattern receives. For example, there may be lots of small things that people change before trying to get pregnant. If you’re using a lot of different apps combined with hardware like heart rate monitors and blood pressure monitors, it wouldn’t be too difficult for Google to take an educated guess. Just using the information in the Target article we know people do things like:
Change their diet – This would be easy to see through apps like MyFitnessPal
Change their buying habits – Amazon app or other store apps
They may do more exercise – Several places they could get this
After all of the above, let’s not forget Google knows everything you’ve searched for online and your browsing history if you use Chrome. I do not think it would take much to guess someone is thinking about having a family based on his or her search history alone.
Let’s assume that based on the above, Google lowers the “pregnancy card” trigger threshold. This means they look closer at changes that might suggest your pregnant. I am not a doctor, so bear with me while I think out loud. Other than urine or blood samples, what other quantitative data is there that you might be pregnant?
For context, I recently learned that eating something that you have an intolerance to can show an elevated heart rate for two hours after eating. One test to check for allergies is to track your heart rate throughout the day. This was where this idea came from in the first place. Using a smartwatch with a heart rate monitor, plus My Fitness Pal, Google could make suggestions that you are allergic to foods you never thought of due to recognising patterns in elevated heart rate after your meals. This made me wonder what else could be possible. There’s a ton of tech for tracking:
Could Google make a guess from this data alone? I cannot stress enough about my lack of medical qualifications, but I wonder if pregnancy impacts things like REM and deep sleep changes, significant blood pressure or heart rate changes at certain times of the day. Who knows, and maybe one of these things alone wouldn’t be enough to know for sure, but combined, I think it will not be long before pregnancy prediction or similar could be done.
Enough about pregnancy, (Google probably thinks I am looking to start a family) what else? What things using heart rate alone could Google diagnose or push to us in Google Now? Could they push notifications to people who are diabetic to remember to take insulin? Could they diagnose diabetes? Could they flag heart problems before it is too late? I have no idea, but I’m excited to see where things go in the next few years.