OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Wearable monitor for "right" amount of food

Build a wearable monitor that tracks effect of food intake on physiological satiation and alerts wearer when their body's needs are met.

Photo of Tom Short

Written by

Who is the target audience for your idea and how does it inspire the end user to lead a healthier life?

People from all socioeconomic levels and cultures fight weight control and management, albeit this varies greatly across these levels, too. People who want to lose weight may not be fully aware of how different types of food affect their body weight. A smartphone app could be developed that processes info from a wearable sensor that tracks bio-markers for physiological satiation, and alerts the wearer when their satiation needs are met.

Weight control and obesity are critical and complex public health issues for which there are no simple solutions. While research shows some correlation with socioeconomic strata and ethnicity, it is a growing issue that cuts across most if not all of our society and increasingly in the developing world where food scarcity has historically been an issue.

Part of the challenge has to do with simple impulse control and the way our bodies process food. There is a gap in time between when we have consumed enough food to meet the needs of our physiological functioning, and when our digestive system signals to our brain that we're "full."

This dynamic alone, independent of the nutritional value of the food that is consumed, can be enough to cause weight gain. It is further compounded by consuming foods with high energy content in the form of fats and sugars.

So what if there was a way to monitor a biological variable in the body that indicated when a person had consumed enough food to meet their body's specific needs? 

Research on biomarkers from 2004 (and later, here) indicates such an approach could be feasible. Further research on this is needed to determine the current state of discovery of such a marker, and the degree to which a sensor could be built to monitor it.

As IoT and wearables become more prevalent and affordable their reach will increase and span more and more people, regardless of socio-economic level. 

Once developed, a watch or wearable display would show the wearer their body's current satiation level. It could also be configured to trigger an alert when it reaches a threshold level.

Also, an app could track these levels over time allowing the wearer to see how well they're doing on regulating their food/calorie intake to match their body's actual need.

Gamification could be used to add to viral adoption, and increase desire to regulate food intake based on the monitor's guidance. Groups of users could organize themselves into teams for purposes of competing against other teams based on groups of friends, work colleagues, or other natural user communities. 

This idea is taken from a 2006 blog post I wrote

What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

What skills, input or guidance are you keen to connect with from the OpenIDEO community to help you build out or refine your idea?

Input/knowledge from the OpenIdeo community on the following: - Knowledge of current state of wearables technology - Near-term plans for various smart watches (e.g., Apple's) and related recent tech trends that might include real-time calorie or food intake monitoring without user input - Knowledge of other related apps or ideas that could address the same issue via a different solution path - Knowledge of current state of real time individual satiation monitoring/nutrition monitoring.

This idea emerged from

  • An Individual

Does your idea currently have an Indiegogo campaign drafted?

  • No


Join the conversation:

Photo of Tom Short

The scientific basis for this idea focuses on a biomarker for hunger. Therefore the challenge is to identify this biomarker, and then come up with a way to detect it. Once that is possible an individual's activity and metabolic profiles should not be relevant to determining when satiety needs have been met.

View all comments