The Christmas edition of New Scientist and my attention was drawn to an article on the exposome [you can access it for free if you register at http://www.newscientist.com/]. The point of the article was that in terms of disease nurture appears to trump nature in most cases. Whilst the genes we are dealt have an impact on susceptibility, the environmental triggers may have a much bigger say in whether we are going suffer from conditions such as cancer.
Over the last few years the amount we know about the genome has increased massively, but attempts to predict health outcomes from genes has been much less successful than was hoped for. Whilst the knowledge of the genome has expanded, the knowledge of the environmental factors has hardly changed. However, this may all be about to change with a variety of wearable devices being developed that will monitor air, noise, pollution, radiation, temperature etc, with apps linking them to smartphones.
OK, I can see that the important use for these technologies will be in the area of human health and happiness, but I can also see that they might open some really interesting opportunities for market research. In addition to knowing about pollution and radiation, these devices may be able to collect brand related stimuli such as advertising, branding, messages etc.
I have felt for a long time that the days of asking people what they have done, for example in tracking studies, are numbered. I refer to this aspect of research as bean counting and expect that in the foreseeable future this information will be collected from a combination of loyalty card, credit card, smartphone, CCTV, geo-tagging, RFIDs, and the sorts of wearable devices being designed for exposome research (collectively I think of these as part of the electronic wake, the trail we leave behind us). These changes will be another nail in the coffin of the days of surveys (I have previously blogged that in the future there will be far fewer surveys, and I will be returning to this theme in the New Year).