Our bodies are churning out data every millisecond. Heartbeats, steps and hydration levels can all be recorded by today’s technologies.
But are we, as a society, getting enough out of all that information?
“All that stuff is kind of useless to everybody,” serial Austin entrepreneur Bryan Menell argues. “It just goes into these silos, and it’s useless.”
We could learn far more about how diet and exercise impact outcomes by corralling all the data being logged by Fitbits, phones and other devices, he says. Menell sees the blockchain as a way to make the data anonymous and give consumers confidence to share information, as well as provide open access for scientists, insurance companies and anyone else to learn more about human wellness.
To that end, Menell will publicly launch Verimos at a Tuesday morning event at Capital Factory. The startup has an ambitious plan — “building the largest wellness data repository in the world powered by the blockchain.” Menell told me that in coming months, Verimos will reveal new partners, such as healthy food companies, fitness studios and at-home heath test providers.
By partnering with wellness companies, Verimos would get access to anonymous consumer data to log in the blockchain and be analyzed. Clients, such as insurance companies, could then use the data to provide incentives for healthy activities. For example, if you reached your goal for total steps in a month, you could get a Verimos-issued token (a form of cryptocurrency) that could be used to, say, book a yoga class.
It’s a bit like the Star Alliance, in which airline companies teamed up to allow consumers to use frequent flyer miles for more than one company’s flights. But offering tokens broadens the appeal.
“It’s a little more tangible and a little more like real money than points,” Menell said. “It’s the building blocks for a lot of interesting things.”
Menell, who previously founded several successful startups, said he started getting interested in the decentralizing potential of blockchain technology early last year. He met with co-founder Jason Stoddard, who he worked with at SubtleData, to expand on how the blockchain could help researchers learn more about wellness. Then he reached out to Michael May, Verimos’ chief information security officer, to expand the team. They spent several months talking with companies about how they might work together to share data before formalizing the startup.
They see the data sets as key for several industries. Health insurance companies could give refunds to consumers who prove they’re making healthy choices. Pharmaceutical companies could access data from clinical trial candidates. And big companies that underwrite their insurance could keep better track of their employees’ health in an anonymous way.
Menell said Verimos is self-funded and is still in its early days. But, once it’s up and running with a lot of wellness data, he sees it as a key to unlocking the power of the data to improve our everyday lives — and help keep us out of the healthcare system as long as possible.
“Instead of donating your body to science when you die, donate your data to science now,” he said.