Nike+ tracking tool unleashes the power of 'personal metrics'

One of the overarching themes at the Healthcare Unbound conference I'm at in Seattle is that there is strength in numbers--in more ways than one. As social networking has demonstrated, people are motivated by a sense of community, virtual or otherwise. Consumers also understand numbers much more than esoteric concepts. The opening of the conference on Monday just happened to coincide with the release of a major feature in Wired magazine called "Living by Numbers," which explores "personal metrics"--how people are improving their health and lives simply by tracking and analyzing personal data.

The main story focuses on Nike+, a simple transmitter from the shoe giant that fits into sneakers and transmits data to a receiver that plugs into the iPod nano, or is built in to the latest version of the iPod Touch. The system not only pumps out the user's favorite tunes, but it also tracks distance and speed, providing voice cues to help each runner meet personal goals. The real power, though, comes from uploading data to iTunes or to view personal trends and "competing" against others.

"By combining a dead-simple way to amass data with tools to use and share it, Nike has attracted the largest community of runners ever assembled--more than 1.2 million runners who have collectively tracked more than 130 million miles and burned more than 13 billion calories," Wired reports.

Veronica Noone is sold. "It just made running so much more entertaining for me," Noone told Wired. "There's something about seeing what you've done, how your pace changes as you go up and down hills, that made me more motivated."

Noone is down 80 pounds from her peak weight while pregnant, and is preparing to run her first half-marathon just a year after plugging in Nike+.

For other anecdotes about "Living By Numbers" and personal metrics:
- check out the Wired feature
- see this related story in Mass High Tech