Monthly Archives: January 2013

Fjord Kitchen Event: Making Wearable Technology Mainstream

Last night I attended Fjord’s When Will Wearables Go Mainstream? event at the Catharine Clark Gallery in San Francisco.

Fjord is a premier digital service design consulting firm focused on the entire design workflow from smart management to concept development and branding. Creatively, the firm hosts Fjord Kitchen events where they pick an inspiring venue and introduce great food, people and topics together to establish entertaining and insightful discussions.

Hot topics throughout the night centered on the emergence of wearable trackers and how to balance simplicity vs. usability vs. actionability when creating a wearable device. For more insight from last night, check out Fjord’s Conversations blog.

Adam, Sarah, Bill, Sonny, Olof

Adam Gazzaley – Director, Neuroscience Imaging Center, UCSF
Sarah Rotman – Epps Senior Analyst, Forrester Research
Bill Geiser – CEO, MetaWatch
Sonny Vu – CEO, Misfit Wearables
Olof Schybergson – CEO, FJORD

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DNA Data Storage: Replacing Your Hard Drive

DNA, nature’s data storage vehicle, has been successfully converted into storing personal files and photos – perhaps eventually replacing the hard drive. Of course any practical use is decades away – but scientists (Ewan Birney, Nick Goldman and collaborators) were able to store a complete set of Shakespeare’s sonnets, a PDF of the first paper to describe DNA’s structure, a mp3 clip from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, a text file of an algorithm and a JPEG of the European Bioinformatics Institute, where the research was conducted. As stated in their paper published in Nature, “Digital production, transmission and storage have revolutionized how we access and use information but have also made archiving an increasingly complex task that requires active, continuing maintenance of digital media. This challenge has focused some interest on DNA as an attractive target for information storage because of its capacity for high-density information encoding, longevity under easily achieved conditions and proven track record as an information bearer.”

The process is expensive and time consuming, but the research team found it very accurate and hardy. DNA, when properly treated, can stay intact for thousands of years. The data to be stored is first decompressed and translated into the four bases of DNA – A, G, T, C, using software that Goldman designed, and then those bases are synthesized into strands of DNA. When you want to look at your saved data, simply sequence the DNA strands and then plug the string of AGTC’s back into Goldman’s software, which will convert the data into its original file form.

For DNA data storage to really take off, the price of synthesizing and sequencing DNA needs to be cheaper and easier. Perhaps one day, it will become more of a reality.

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ESRI: Health Information Map, Tracking the Flu

I’ve always been enamored by maps, because they tell a story – why one area is more populated than another, how populations move and what geographic distinctions make an area more attractive for a specific use. ESRI takes their research + outside data + government data + social media to create stories using maps. From tracking demographic impact after Superstorm Sandy to mapping out Olympic medals won per country over the years, the maps cover a range of interests. These maps can be used academically to visualize and interpret data to better understand relationships, but they are also just plain fun to look at.

The start of 2013 also came with a rough flu season. ESRI has taken weekly data gathered by the CDC and mapped out which states have the highest influenza activity. On top of that, ESRI has layered on social media (YouTube, Twitter, Flickr) to show who’s talking about the flu. Check out the map here: Health Information Map. There is also a map to see which populations are most at-risk from the flu this season by age.

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Interview: Christine Lemke, AchieveMint Co-Founder, Making Healthy Choices Fun and Rewarding

AchieveMint is a multidimensional platform that not only aggregates your data from various health and lifestyle technologies (i.e. steps taken as measured by Fitbit, healthy places visited and checked in through foursquare) but additionally takes that information and uses it to reward users for healthy habits. Simply, do healthy activities tracked on mobile or web applications and earn AchieveMint points which leads to cash rewards for reaching your goals. The Company started when a few co-founders came together to discuss creating a system to track and incentivize healthy behavior as a way to improve their various health goals.

AchieveMint’s Christine Lemke, who focuses on product and operations, explains it as “There are already apps that monitor your weight and steps taken that are widely adopted. The world doesn’t need yet another one of those apps, however we saw that if there was an incentive attached to those apps, users have more loyalty in using them and ultimately improve their health.”

There has been a lot of interest from consumers who want to use AchieveMint but the company is adding users and accepting invites in a controlled and steady manner. They want to make sure that they are providing the best rewards and experience for users.

When I synced my Fitbit to the website, I was delighted to see that it pulled my historical data and gave me credit for my distance covered in early December.

The Company is offering points not only for exercise and weight loss, but also for spreading news about health. For example, soon you can earn points for tweeting and sharing healthy articles on social media websites. AchieveMint wants to work with all types of lifestyle businesses, including recipe sites and forums like Pinterest – giving points to the user for reading and promoting healthy tips.

What else can we expect going forward? Christine acknowledges that they want to make the rewards more comprehensive and not just cash based. This could mean anything from donating your earnings to a favorite charity to getting discounts on fitness gear, a nice meal or a spa day.

The Company is very focused on big data, namely sifting through all the data that is collected on you and analyzing it to get a view on which apps have what type of affect on your lifestyle. From this, AchieveMint will be able to focus on what motivates you most based on your past behavior (i.e. a certain goal or a leaderboard). Taking that knowledge, AchieveMint can create a plan for you, sort of like a “personal trainer in a box,” suggesting which activities or path to take to get back on track if you find yourself in a trough.

I certainly like the company and if you can secure a coveted invite (sign up today!) there is no reason not to use AchieveMint to help track your fitness goals and earn rewards while doing so. As Christine summarized, “At the end of the day, you improve what you can measure and we want to provide that central dashboard to aggregate your physical and social activity. We can then use that data to help people improve their quality of life through healthy living on a daily basis.”

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UP: Jawbone’s Wearable Activity and Sleep Tracker

I’ve seen a few people around the office with Jawbone’s UP activity bracelet recently. The device is sleek, comes in eight striking colors, and tracks both activity and sleep. UP is water resistant, has a vibrating smart alarm, and lasts up to ten days without a recharge. To upload data, simply remove the end cap and plug the band into your smart phone’s headphone jack and open up the UP app. If you are looking for a wrist-wearable activity tracker with wireless upload capabilities, waiting for the Fitbit Flex to debut this spring might be worth it. Personally, while I love how beautiful the UP design is, I know that I need instant gratification – whether it is hitting one button on the Nike + Fuelband or FitBit One and seeing my daily progress, or having the data sync quickly and wirelessly to my iPhone app. Ideally I would also want a smaller band – I do a lot of typing and usually take my watch off because of how much I dislike my wrist resting on it while typing. But regardless of my personal preferences, the UP is still a very attractive activity tracker that seems to get the job done.

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Innovation: V-Chip for Quick Blood Tests

As described in the December 18th publication of Nature, The V-Chip is a bar-chart chip that houses 50 wells, each loaded with antibodies that react to blood. Blood contains biomarkers, which are proteins that indicate the normality of your biological processes. For example, changes in a biomarker can reflect and correlate to the risk or progression of a disease. When you inject your blood sample into the chip, the biomarkers in your blood react to the pre-loaded antibodies in the wells. Enzymes prompt oxygen to be released in accordance to the amount of the triggered biomarker, which pushes the blood in each well up the chip to create a graph.

While it might take some time before the V-Chip sees commercial production, its ease of use and quick turn-around time makes it an attractive diagnostic tool. Perhaps one day it can be used to spot various diseases and indications of cancer right at the point of care.

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Tradeshow: International Consumer Electronics Show (CES)

CES 2013 had a greatly expanded health and fitness related consumer device section of the tradeshow. I navigated my way through the massive exhibit floor along with over 150,000 other attendees from around the world. There will be a number of exciting devices of various price points aimed at physical and mental fitness coming to market this year and I will be sure to cover them in more detail as they are released. As for now, here are a few teaser photos from CES.

CES 2013

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Withings Blood Pressure Monitor: Easy Home Measurements for the Family

The Withings Blood Pressure Monitor is a very easy to use device that captures data from each use and stores it on the Withings app. I was initially surprised by the size of the device. With the band measuring just under six inches wide, it felt larger than most BP monitors found in a doctor’s office. However, the mobility and accuracy of the device makes it an ideal home BP monitor.

I set the device to average three rounds of measurements with a 30 second break between takes, which averaged my blood pressure to 116/66. This measurement was also transferred to my Withings Health Companion app (bottom right) which keeps track of my weight, exercise and sleep. I highly recommend this device for monitoring blood pressure levels consistently over time.

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Predictions for 2013

“Never make predictions, especially about the future.” – Casey Stengel, Major League Baseball outfielder and manager

“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” – Thomas Watson (1874-1956), Chairman of IBM, 1943

“A cookie store is a bad idea. Besides, the market research reports say America likes crispy cookies, not soft and chewy cookies like you make.” – Response to Debbi Fields’ idea of starting Mrs. Fields’ Cookies

“We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.” – Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962

“But what … is it good for?” – Engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM, 1968, commenting on the microchip

And with those quotes in mind, my healthcare predictions for 2013:

  1. New entrants into the telehealth space, encouraged by healthcare reform; more hospitals will start to partner with telehealth companies.
  2. Tangible shift in quantified-self device marketing and design changes to accommodate and focus on elderly and aging population.
  3. Rise in number of people with sequenced genes; predictive data used to help drive lifestyle changes and increased use in personalized medicine.
  4. Increase in number of companies providing wellness tools to employees, including using mobile gaming along with meaningful incentives.
  5. Adidas miCoach and other traditional sportswear and clothing companies will introduce their own version of Nike’s FuelBand + GPS. Lululemon perhaps? We can only wish.
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