Biometrics combined with big data will impact the healthcare industry

March 17, 2015 - 

Biometric sensors embedded in smartphones combined with big data could potentially impact the entire healthcare industry in the future, said a biometric expert at SXSW, according to a report by Mashable.

Dr. Leslie Saxon, founder of Body Computing at USC, discussed at a biometrics-themed panel how in the future, smartphones will collect biometric data for different applications, ranging from individual medical records to predicting a major disease outbreak.

“Imagine if you’re checking your phone 150 times a day — which is the average — what if sometimes you’re getting a facial scan that measures your blood pressure, your heart rate, something else and you’re collecting this massive biometric cloud in the sky while you’re just opening stuff,” Saxon said during a panel at SXSW. “With this type of density of data just from the invisible — just from opening devices — you could potentially be transforming healthcare. The crazy part of that is you could scale that really globally.”

Analyzing the massive amount of data could lead to spotting larger trends and insights before researchers uncover them.

Based on these findings, scientists and medical researchers may be able to identify serious outbreaks in advance, such as the recent ebola outbreak that started in west Africa.

“I imagine this day where, as much as everyone walking around here is immersed in their alternative digital reality that healthcare is a a part of that,” Saxon said. If we have enough of this biometric data then we can predict ebola and things like that very early on.”

Although smartphone technology and the medical industry still have a ways to go before reaching this level of innovation, Saxon and her fellow SXSW panelists said they are not as far away as one might think.

Saxon mentioned how app developers have managed to combine wearables with their app to measure people’s pulse, heart rate and stress level.

Despite this, Saxon emphasized the needs for stronger regulation and oversight surrounding biometric data privacy as it can be easily compromised or mismanaged.

She recommended that there should be some form of the “U.N for biometrics and security,” in which a global organization is responsible for overseeing individuals’ right to privacy and regulates the proper handling of data.

“There’s nothing more intimately private than healthcare so we have to put the very highest safeguards around this data,” said Saxon. “It not only has to be beyond what we have now, but much farther beyond.”

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About Justin Lee

Justin Lee has been a contributor with Biometric Update since 2014. Previously, he was a staff writer for web hosting magazine and website, theWHIR. For more than a decade, Justin has written for various publications on issues relating to technology, arts and culture, and entertainment. Follow him on Twitter @BiometricJustin.