It’s clear that technology is reinvigorating the healthcare industry, from better connecting doctors and patients to crunching big data for optimal diagnosis. Amongst the dizzying potential for technology to transform healthcare, mobile apps and hardware which helping people to stay active, sleep well, or eat healthier are emerging as a major trend.
MyChi (Chi or Qi is a Chinese concept meaning vital energy) is a combination of smart hardware and mobile app, working as a personalized food therapy adviser giving daily diet tips based on users’ health condition and more.
Developed by Shanghai-based startup Shiyiku, MyChi device is a dime-sized tracking gadget to be placed under your pillow before sleep, to monitor your sleep disturbance overnight. MyChi is powered by a build-in battery that lasts for the lifetime (one year) of the device; users can buy a new one at a discount price when returning an old model.
Whilst Chinese hardware manufacturers are competing to create lower-cost gadgets, the value-add of MyChi lies on the content it delivers rather than its hardware, said David Li, the company’s co-founder and technical consultant who also co-founded the Shanghai-based Xinchejian hacker space.
Instead of just offering dry data as most current smart hardware makers were doing, MyChi combines the REM data from the MyChi device with a few health questions on your daily health symptoms, and then translates these into actionable food therapy recommendations, exercises and alternative health suggestions based on sleep quality models from the Beijing Traditional Chinese Medicine Research Center.
This model derives from meridian organ clock theory, a branch of traditional Chinese medicine which is also the basis of acupuncture and massage (Tuina in Chinese). For instance, the theory defines the period from 11pm to 1am as a key period for liver recovery. Users’ liver functions may have a problem if their sleep is regularly disturbed during this period and they have related symptoms, like sweaty palms and fatigue in the afternoon.
To develop food therapies, the app considers the specific condition of users’ bodies, food attributes and the cooking methods for related meals. Seasonal variation is a key parameter as the theory believes that choosing food in accordance with seasonal and climatic variations has a nourishing effect on the body.
Anna Na, co-founder of the company and a beneficiary of TCM herself, said Chinese food therapy has a long history over many generations despite it generally being viewed as speculative by the rest of the world. She noted that a growing body of scientific evidence supports the effectiveness of its principals.
Featuring a simple to-do list interface, MyChi gives the full menu for a day including snacks and drinks. The service is also planning to add separate versions for vegetarian and gluten free users later.
To facilitate recommendations, MyChi has integrated a menu-scanning feature, allowing users to recognize the best foods available for them when dining out. The gadget also offers advice on using massage to improve overall health and welbeing.
MyChi will retail between US$70 and US$75 when crowdfunding on KickStarter in Feb. this year, down from the original price of US$128.
Since the product is released only in English and is going after overseas markets, it is natural to raise the question of whether their target users are ready to accept a service based on TCM, a theory yet to be widely accepted by foreigners.
“Our system is not about using medicines, but emphasizing whole foods and thus is an ideal way for users around the world to benefit from ancient wisdom in a familiar way. Many people in Western societies are looking for natural treatments after modern development and lifestyles have brought a whole new set of problems”, said Anna.
She added that many outside of China are becoming passionate about whole foods as curative. “Furthermore, our plan integrates a balanced eating plan used by many Western nutritionists. MyChi simply takes it to a further level by integrating this with ancient Chinese wisdom.”
Editing by Mike Cormack (@bucketoftongues)