Improving Life Through Databases

by Alyssa M
We have discussed as a class the many uses of databases in regards to business purposes, but databases are useful on a personal level as well. In fact, there are many people that utilize databases every day without even realizing it. According to Levent Orman, “Database application systems are designed to collect, store, retrieve, process, and present large quantities of information.” While this definitely applies to business applications, it can also be applied for personal usage as well. We deal with “large quantities of information” all the time, so why not use databases to organize it all and help us improve ourselves? This idea is the principal behind many of today’s technology and applications that we take for granted every day.

These days, there are many applications and devices that help us improve various aspects of our lives. For instance, many people use some form of fitness tracking device or app, such as the Fitbit wristband. The way the Fitbit works is that it tracks your daily activities: how far you have walked and/or run in a day, how many calories you have burned, how long you have slept, etc. This device creates a database of all your activity and can visualize it by making a graphical analysis that is viewed either through the Fitbit app or website. Through this personal database, the user is able to track their fitness progress.

Another application that helps improve health via a database is called MyFitnessPal. MyFitnessPal lets users input what they have eaten as well as how many calories they have burned in order to track their nutritional progress. Although it is similar to Fitbit in that it tracks the user’s fitness activity, it also tracks the user’s daily nutrient intake such as total carbohydrates, sodium, etc. The app takes the user’s information and creates graphical displays of their progress in terms of their caloric intake, nutrients, and weight. MyFitnessPal not only keeps a database of the user’s information, but also has its own database of nutritional information for over 3 million food items. Even if an item is not found in the MyFitnessPal database, the user can add new items to it manually that will be stored for future use. This app’s database usage can help people visually track their nutritional progress and potentially help many people become healthier.

Personal databases are not only used for tracking health and fitness, but also for tracking and maintaining other things such as finances. A popular app for dealing with finances is Mint. The app tracks activity involving the user’s bank accounts, credit cards, investments, and more. Like the previously mentioned app, Mint creates a graphical display of the user’s spending habits, allowing the user to clearly see what they spend their money on the most. The app also helps the user visualize their budget in order to help save money. By creating a visual display of the information stored in the database, the app helps users understand where there money is going and how to save more.

Some people have even gone beyond simply purchasing an app or device and created their own databases in order to improve their personal lives. One such individual was able to utilize databases in order to help him find love. Mathematician Chris McKinlay was one of many people who use the popular dating site OkCupid and also one of the many who were frustrated at the lack of results from the site. Although the site has its own algorithm to help people find their perfect match, McKinlay was not receiving any responses from these so-called “matches”. Instead, McKinlay decided to use a different approach and gathered data from the site in order to find more women that he could connect with. He slowly gathered information through questions that over 20,000 women had answered and grouped these women together using categorical data. He came up with seven distinct clustered groups and was able to narrow down his choices to two clusters, whose features interested him the most. Once he was able to analyze the data he had gathered, he set out to tailor his profile to emphasize his activities and preferences that matched those of the clusters he was interested in (he did not lie about his interests but merely emphasized his actual interests). Soon after his database work was completed and his profile was edited, he received far more responses than he had in the past and went on far more dates. McKinlay had vastly improved his search for love by utilizing the data he was given and creating a database.

Many people believe that databases are just meant for more complex business purposes when in fact, they can also help us with our daily lives. Although databases have the capacity to help run a company, they can be used on a smaller scale to help many of us improve different parts of our lives.

 

 

Works Cited

Poulsen, K. (2014, January 21). How a Math Genius Hacked OkCupid to Find True Love. Retrieved from Wired: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2014/01/how-to-hack-okcupid/all/

Tarantola, A. (2014, February 8). Lead a Better Life by Obsessively Tracking Every Aspect. Retrieved from Gizmodo: http://gizmodo.com/lead-a-better-life-by-obsessively-tracking-every-aspect-1510703976

Orman, L. (1988). Functional development of database applications. IEEE

Transactions on Software Engineering, 14(9), 1280-1292.doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1109/32.6172

 

 

 

11 thoughts on “Improving Life Through Databases

  • February 21, 2014 at 1:25 pm
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    This is one of a few topics that talks about how database can improve one’s life rather than damage the business’ reputation from hacking and losing data, steal personal information from users, etc. I really enjoy your topic and your example of Chris McKinlay’s love story. The result (20,000 women had answered) was very amazing and how it helped him to find his true love by using the knowledge of database. This shows that we have the options to use/apply technology in a positive or negative way. Good job.

  • February 23, 2014 at 12:33 am
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    I liked how this person talked about not one area in specific but in more general terms that many of us can relate to. if we cannot relate to finance, then perhaps we can relate to relationships or working out. It showed us the importance of databases in our daily lives without us really ever realizing it

  • March 1, 2014 at 4:37 pm
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    One of my favorite presentations in class. I enjoyed the fitness app reference as well as Chris McKinlay story and his search for love using his own database model. Shows to prove how valuable databases can be when implemented correctly.

  • March 5, 2014 at 11:59 am
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    This is a interesting topic. I thought the used of Database was usually only for business purpose, but this article is a eye opener. This is a good used of Database on our health.

  • March 8, 2014 at 12:52 pm
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    With the quantified self movement the use of databases for making people lives better is through the roof. I believe it received traction from the mobile device as a way to record exercising and activities throughout the day. I think this is a very interesting topic not necessarily so much in the realm of databases but more importantly why we feel the need to use this technology. Great presentation it was very insightful.

  • March 11, 2014 at 1:42 pm
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    This is a cool article, because it talks about how it can improve your life instead of anything to do with business. It is interesting how much data is stored and used on a daily basis just by being on your phone or on your computer. After taking this class and reading these article i understand that every information come from servers. Great Presentation.

  • March 18, 2014 at 7:49 pm
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    I thought this was a real fun presentation as it seemed to talk about everyday databases that we use to help us in our lives. When I think of databases I usually think of warehouses of data that companies and the government have on us but this presentation had me realizing that smaller databases are used to improved our quality of life everyday. I’ve used MyFitnessPal in the passed to help me monitor my calorie intake and I can only imagine what future databases and technologies will help improve everyday life, in the near future, as databases and technology increase in size and data.

  • March 20, 2014 at 2:01 pm
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    Great presentation! It’s amazing to think of how often we use databases in our everyday life without realizing it. I’ve used MyFitnessPal and it is a great tool to keep track of what you are eating in a day or over a week. It’s interesting to see it as a database and how it covers into out class.

  • March 20, 2014 at 7:09 pm
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    This is one of the few topics that taught the class what database applications there are for personal use. Tracking your fitness, diet, finance levels, amongst other things, are really handy in the fast paced lifestyle that we live in nowadays. The fact that we have such a powerful tool so easily accessible to organize our life on such a common device such as a phone is a testament to just how useful databases can be to personal life.

  • March 20, 2014 at 9:20 pm
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    This presentation was an enjoyable relief. It’s nice to hear how databases can be used to better ourselves instead the more prominent doom and gloom. Personally, I enjoyed your story about how Chris McKinlay broke down OkCupid and used its key algorithms to find her match. Her amazing story is not the only one. Amy Webb also broke down dating sites (using a similar approach) and found her true love. I’d reccomend seeing her TED talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_webb_how_i_hacked_online_dating

  • March 20, 2014 at 10:00 pm
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    What an Article about what database could be about, Health, finances, love as well a many uses such as the control of temperature in buildings, and how having the correct and available data could be put to good use as the one of this mathematician that found dates after he analyzed the data and put it to work on his favor, or the one about hoe to control your finances, your budget and how much you spend and where you spend your money, that will be the best we could do to take advantage of all databases in our daily life.

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