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Google spin-off deploys wearable electronics for huge health study

On the morning of Tuesday 27 June, a young man walked into an office in northern California, signed a consent form and picked up two devices that will monitor his heartbeat, sleep patterns and a range of other bodily functions. He is one of the first participants in a planned 4-year, 10,000-person study being run by Google’s spin-off company Verily Life Sciences, which aims to find out how readings from smart devices can be combined with genetic tests and other data to improve overall health and to predict when someone might suffer a medical emergency such as a stroke or seizure.

Verily’s study, Project Baseline, joins a handful of similar experiments, including one led by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), which enrolled its first person earlier in June and will collect data from wearable devices on some of its one million participants. Together, these studies are part of a broad effort by companies and researchers to take advantage of the data generated by smart electronics.

Today’s devices appeal mainly to a select group that wants to quantify the minutiae of their lives, down to how many steps they take while mowing the lawn. But tech proponents foresee a day when sensors linked to smartphones will be an integral part of personalized medicine.

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