Your “Check Engine” light flashes on your car’s dashboard, prompting you to bring your car in for a check-up with your mechanic. Imagine if you had a similar warning for your body, signaling you when something is not right? In the past few years, several products have been developed that enable regular people to access data that they would otherwise require a doctor’s visit.

An example of one of these devices is BodyMedia, which uses accelerometers, thermometers and a sensor to collect data from your body. These tools enable people to track calories burned, distance walked (or run), and a great deal more of information. Similarly, FitBit has developed several devices to help track weight, activity, and even sleep.

While access to this data is beneficial to anyone, it can be extremely useful for people with conditions such as diabetes. With these devices, people can monitor specific data, such as blood sugar levels, white and red blood cell count, and oxygen levels in their blood. In addition to keeping track of specific data, people can access sight and hearing tests. With all of this information at our fingertips, regular people will be able to access their health needs before even stepping foot in a doctor’s office.

While data is always helpful, the presentation of it plays a huge role in how it is used. Doctors and scientists can analyze data and draw conclusions from them, many consumers cannot. The data from these apps are presented in the form of graphics and dashboards, which is appealing to the average person and this enables them to react to changing metrics within their body.

These health applications have begun to utilize healthy competition to influence behavior change in individuals. Healthy living is now gamified, setting up friendly competitions among groups of people to meet their health goals. Users will be challenged to meet their goals in order to beat the competition. These models demonstrate the power of technology and data as a strong force paving the way for a healthier nation.

Do you use one of these apps? Do you think they have the potential to make us healthier? Comment below, we would like to know what our readers think!