It's hard to imagine going anywhere or doing anything without a cell phone.
But Professor Deborah Estrin says our smart phone addiction can improve our health.
The Cornell Tech professor has long studied obscure data sources. But, for the last decade she's focused on the data generated by mobile devices.
"Where we go, how much we move, how quickly we go, what form of transportation, the things we see, what we're exposed to as information about the world and then as information about the individual. So what we call mobile health," Estrin said.
Last Thursday, Estrin was awarded the prestigious MacArthur Foundation fellowship. She was among 25 people, including seven in New York who won the fellowship.
Each will receive $625,000, paid out over five years, with no strings attached.
Winners are chosen for work considered creative, significant and having the potential to make important future advances.
For Estrin, a computer scientist, that means analyzing so-called "digital crumbs" to develop a fuller understanding of our health.
Consider this scenario, "when your back goes out, for example, or your knee, one of the things it affects is your mobility. It effects how much time you spend out of the house. It effects how quickly you walk. And so those are all things that are measurable through software on the mobile device, just in the background," Estrin said.
Unlike companies that use a digital footprint for commercial purposes, Professor Estrin won’t mine this data to sell it to advertisers.
She will develop ways for people to use their data to learn more about themselves.