Improving Life Through Databases{11}


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