Your iPhone contains a huge amount of information about who you are and what kind of lifestyle you lead but not just in the contents of your apps and photos. Even on its physical surface, your phone contains information that can paint a fairly complete picture of your lifestyle.
By sampling the molecular traces left on smartphones, a group of scientists was able to create “lifestyle sketches” of each phone’s user, including information about diet, use of personal hygiene products, use of pharmaceuticals, health status and places visited.
Molecular traces “will uncover the types of soaps, lotions, shampoo, make-up, food such as vegetarian versus meat-eater or spicy foods type of drinkings, drugs, even materials of attire one uses, ” Dr. Pieter Dorrestein, a prof of pharmaceutical sciences at the UC San Diego School of Medicine and the study’s lead writer, told The Huffington Post. “Because our reference databases and analysis infrastructure, we can right now merely annotate 2 percent of the data. But as this knowledge increases, the resolution of lifestyle analysis will also improve.”
This method of sampling could one day be used in a range of real-life scenarios, including airport screening, criminal profiling, and monitoring of medication adherence and that’s simply the beginning.
For the study, published Nov. 14 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers swabbed the phones and the right hands of 39 healthy adult volunteers in several different locations. Employing a technique called mass spectrometry, which measures the characteristics of molecules by converting them to ions, they identified and analyzed molecules from nearly 500 samples.
We could tell if a person is likely female, employs high-end cosmetics, dyes her hair, drinkings coffee, opts brew over wine, likes spicy food, is being treated for depression.”
This information was used to create a personalized lifestyle profile for each telephone, which revealed usage of things like anti-depressants, anti-fungal scalp creams, hair-loss therapies, and eye fells. The profiles also picked up things like citrus, caffeine, herbs and spices. Some of the traces were months old, indicating phones can provide a reasonably through lifestyle sketch.
The traces allowed researchers to build extrapolations about a person’s lifestyle, determining things like whether the person has a healthy diet, whether they’re a smoker, and whether they spend a lot of time outside. And, as Dorrestein noted, this is based on merely 2 percent of the available data. One day, these profiles could be much more complete.
This type of molecular info is transferred primarily via touch, but also from surfaces upon which you put down your telephone, the study’s writers explained. The researchers are extending their investigation to keys, wallets and other personal items to see if they might procure similar outcomes.