Stephen Intille Turns Phones into Coaches

A leader in the field of personal health informatics, Intille is taking a unique approach to promoting healthy behavior—adapting a device nearly everyone owns, the smartphone, to assist with the motivating.

Intille and his team are building on the smartphone’s capabilities to help us track data related to the choices we make affecting our health. They are creating tools to help us understand our choices—about eating, exercise, even socializing—and developing mathematical models that enable computers to synthesize and respond to the information almost immediately.

One goal: an app that serves as a personal health coach, capable of sending instantaneous messages that reinforce positive health behaviors—an encouraging voice message from a spouse, for example.

The results of Intille’s trials will shape fields like exercise science, sleep science, and weight loss and nutrition—issues affecting everyone, from teenagers fighting obesity to aging baby boomers.