THE CONNECTED MAN
CHRIS DANCY IS CONNECTED TO 23 DEVICES TO TRACK VITAL INFORMATIONS ABOUT HIS BODY + LIFE.
THE MOST CONNECTED HUMAN ON EARTH
Ask Chris Dancy what he ate on Aug. 11 of last year, and he can tell you (Chick-fil-A). He can also tell you about the weather that day (83F), what music he listened to (Kelly Clarkson’s Walk Away), how many e-mails he sent (21), how long he slept (8 hours and 35 minutes), how many steps he took (8,088), and when he took his dogs to the park (1:04 p.m.). Dancy, 45, doesn’t have an amazing memory. He’s an extreme life hacker: He collects information about himself and his surroundings from 10 devices he wears or carries and 13 more in his home and car. He also catalogs virtually all of his online activity. The exhaustive record-keeping is an effort to discover the systems that shape his behavior so he can tinker with them and live better.
Dancy’s project began five years ago when he started archiving his tweets. Twitter (TWTR) didn’t make them searchable at the time, and Dancy wanted to collect them as a kind of diary. He also started dumping his Facebook (FB) posts and status updates into spreadsheets. “Then it just became a domino effect,” he says. He began using any device he thought would help him find his quantified self. He funneled the data into his Google (GOOG) calendar, which is perhaps the world’s most thorough, searchable diary. Everything his sensors track (weather, exercise, sleep patterns) and everything he does online (photos, e-mails, Amazon.com (AMZN) purchases) gets dumped into the calendar with a time stamp and a color code for one of 10 “buckets.”
The result is a multicolor, proliferating array of information that is, according to Dancy, full of unexpected correlations. During his first self-improvement project—to lose 100 pounds—he discovered that he ate worse after binge-watching TV shows. It didn’t matter which show, only that his caloric intake increased whenever he watched episodes of the same show back to back. Now he still might watch four hours of TV, but he mixes it up: an episode of Dexter followed by True Blood, thenCalifornication. He also found he ate better when he slept better and slept better when air quality was better, so he changed the rugs near where his dogs come and go through their door dragging in dust. He says he lost 20 pounds simply by identifying such correlations and changing his behavior accordingly. From there it was a matter of setting rules: If he wanted fast food, for example, he had to walk to get it—until he was ready to adopt plain old exercise routines.
In March, Dancy left his job as an information technology director at a software company in Denver to go full-time making presentations about “data-assisted living.” He speaks at conferences on health, finance, technology, and just about anything else. “They don’t pay a lot, but I’m hoping they pay enough that I can keep myself going,” he says. And if he does go broke, he’ll know exactly how it happened.
THE UBER CONNECTOR
And you thought managing a smartphone and an inbox was exhausting.
45-year-old Chris Dancy is known as the most connected man in the world. He has between 300 and 700 systems running at any given time, systems that capture real-time data about his life.
His wrists are covered with a variety of wearable technology, including the fitness wristband tracker Fitbit and the Pebble smartwatch. He weighs himself on the Aria Wi-Fi scale, uses smartphone controlled Hue lighting at home and sleeps on a Beddit mattress cover to track his sleep.
Even Dancy's dogs are tracked via Tagg, which logs their daily activities.
Although this type of lifestyle would be tiring to many — with numbers running his day — Dancy calls it motivating.
"I started five years ago when I noticed my doctor was having a hard time keeping up with my health records," Dancy told Mashable. "Around the same time, I worried that the work I did on the Internet could be lost if [there's] a service shutdown. In an effort to collect this information, I started looking for ways I could gather data when I didn't have time to write things down."
Dancy has lost about 100 pounds since tracking his lifestyle.
Dancy, who says he's always been tech-savvy and has a background in IT, explains that staying connected has allowed him to get more out of the way he lives.
"I've lost 100 pounds and learned to meditate," he says.
"I've lost 100 pounds and learned to meditate," he says. "I'm much more aware of how I respond to life and take steps to adjust to my environment. I've also formed better habits thanks to the feedback I'm getting."
With so many devices to choose from, Dancy says his favorite wearables are the Body Media fitness tracker and the Pebble. He also prefers products that offer contextually aware information, such as Google Now and Google Glass.
"I am most passionate about feedback that is haptic — vibration or subtle environmental changes — such as lighting that changes to suggest the weather is changing," he said. "I do take days off with little to no tracking from wearables, but because I have so many systems that automatically track what I'm doing, it's impossible to truly disconnect."
As more companies look to integrate smart technology into products — from smart toothbrushes to tennis racquets and refrigerators — Dancy believes it's only a matter of time before people adopt a lifestyle closer to his.
"There are mountains of data in everything we use at home, even when it's not 'smart,'" Dancy said. "By the end of the decade, there will not be a job on earth that hasn't been changed by smart objects, wearable computing or personal information."
Although Dancy believes more people should infuse smart products into their lives, he cautions when to share personal information.
"I feel empowered but a bit scared by the looming future of connected humans that can't handle Facebook much less a relationship with their life data," he said. "I do think it's urgent that people look at the data they are creating and giving away.
"So much of our value to our employers, family and peers can be used in ways to make our lives better — instead of lining the pockets of mega-institutions that want to keep our attention."