Tag Archives: wearables

Predictions for 2014

I find predictions interesting. Humans make predictions almost carelessly, and unabashed I too enjoy pondering the future. While I may have been conservative last year, here are my predictions for 2014 (and to hopefully be eventually correct, beyond).

“A rocket will never be able to leave the Earth’s atmosphere.” — New York Times, 1936

  1. Consumer wearables become more accurate by being ingestible or implantable. Order yours online, FDA approved.
  2. Ambiguous grade for gym class? Low class contribution/participation? Schools start to use wearables to grade previously ‘less quantifiable’ subjects and rubrics.
  3. Emergence of classes on how to hide emotions and stress. Glass apps are being made to detect heat/sensory changes that may indicate lying, or body heat temperatures that indicate illness or nervousness.
  4. Political leaders will wear smart glasses.
  5. Medical technologies make great advances – not only more devices like the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System that restores some functional vision to the blind, but also for more cosmetic uses. Plastic surgery will become tech focused. Want a truly photographic memory? There will be an implantable brain chip for that.
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Best in Healthcare For 2013

2013 was a great year for consumer healthcare technology. This year, 95 million Americans have used mobile phones as health tools or as search devices to find healthcare information, paving the way for a more connected and health conscious 2014.

To continue with my annual Year in Review, I present some of my favorite companies and posts in 2013.

A big thank you to my readers for your support, ideas and input.

-Alexis

Best New Entrants into Wearables:

Best Smart Fabric Concepts:

  • Athos — Athletic apparel made with smart fabric and sensors to measure every muscle exertion, heartbeat, and breath
  • OMsignal  — Embedded sensors in the apparel monitor your heart rate, breathing, and activity

 Best Fitness Apps:

  • RunKeeper — GPS app to track outdoor fitness activities
  • Moves — GPS app to track daily activity continuously, shown on a timeline
  • Charity Miles — GPS app that tracks and lets you earn money for charity when you walk, run, or bike

 Best Personalized Coaching:

  • Sessions — Simple, individual, and thoughtful fitness program to help you get healthy
  • Wello — Online workouts with a Certified Personal Trainer in real-time on your mobile device over live video

A New Twist to Common Items:

  • HAPIfork — An electronic fork that monitors eating habits and alerts you when you eat too fast
  • Beam Technologies — A smart toothbrush that monitors oral hygiene and reports habits to a smart app
  • Withings Blood Pressure Monitor — Measures, calculates and tracks changes in blood pressure on graphs

Best Up and Coming:

  • PUSH — Tracks and analyzes performance at the gym; measures power, force and balance
  • Emotiv Insight — Multi-channel, wireless headset that monitors brain activity to optimize brain fitness and measures cognitive health and well-being
  • Scanadu Scout — Medical tricorder to measure, analyze and track vitals
  • MC10 — Stretchable electronics that conform to the shape of the body to measure and track vitals

Best for Healthcare Providers:

  • Pristine — Develops Glass apps to help hospitals deliver safer, more coordinated, more cost effective care
  • Informedika — Marketplace for electronic test ordering and results exchange between healthcare providers
  • IntelligentM — Data-driven hand hygiene compliance solutions for hospitals to dramatically reduce healthcare-acquired infections
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Goji Play Launches: Tops the List of Must Have Fun Fitness Tech

I met with Kai Huang, co-founder and CEO of Blue Goji, and Zach Fountain, COO in a SOMA gym to test out Goji Play, a fusion of hardware and software that turns any cardio fitness machine into an interactive and engaging workout experience. How engaging? After the interview I tried Goji Play at home for thirty minutes and it really did feel like I had only been working out for five – it was totally and utterly immersive. Kai and his team are pros at making games active and social – he co-founded and invented Guitar Hero almost a decade ago.

The device setup is simple. I downloaded the Goji Play App as well as some games while giving the wearable activity sensor a quick charge. I clipped the sensor onto my shirt, but it also fit comfortably in my pocket or on my shoe. Setting up the wireless game controllers meant hitting all the buttons to sync them to the iPad app, which took several seconds.

The controllers are intuitive to use and designed for comfort. They can be fitted on any cardio machine or fixed onto hand batons (great for treadmill workouts). After a few minutes of using the buttons and commands they became second nature and I could focus my attention on exerting more energy into my cardio activity. I downloaded several games including a boxing game, a fast moving game (reminiscent of Mario Cart), and a block matching game similar to Tetris. Twenty minutes on one game felt like two minutes – I was so immersed that time passed quickly and before I knew it I had drummed up a sweat.

From Guitar Hero, Kai witnessed how fun games can inspire people – friends and families – to be more active and social.

How did you make the leap from pure gaming (Guitar Hero) to health and fitness?

KH: “We wanted to take the immersive experience of gaming and use it to inspire people to get active. The power of games is that they get people to engage in an activity in such a way that you often don’t realize how much time has passed because you’ve been so involved. While you are doing this, we are tracking your fitness goals, steps, distance, etc. and truly making this a fitness product.”

How has Guitar Hero influenced the design and hardware of Goji Play, if at all?

KH: “We’ve designed the Goji Play for comfort – we want you to use it on any wireless device and any cardio device in the gym. The hardware is designed to be simple and easy to use – something that everyone feels comfortable using.”

ZF: “On the software side, we area focused on making games that are deep, engaging, immersive experiences. Additional games and apps are in development and will be released on a regular basis.”

Who is your target market?

KH: “Anyone who uses an exercise machine. We have a broad audience from people who have invested in exercise equipment at home to anyone with access to a gym. “

What is the broader vision and mission of Blue Goji?

KH: “We want people to lead healthier lives and we want to get people motivated. If we can take an activity and make it fun while helping you get healthy in the process then we’ve done well.”

ZF: “We want this to have an impact on the entire family and each member can create their own profile. There might be a primary purchaser but because we support multiple profiles and have a wide variety of games we envision the entire household getting value and having some collective fun in getting in shape and using the system together. Also, given that the New Year is around the corner, we think Goji Play can keep people on track with any fitness resolutions.”

KH: “We want people to remember that Goji Play is all about fun and letting you have fun. In the background it’s about pushing you to achieve your fitness goals – but if you have fun using Goji Play, then we’ve succeeded.”

Available online starting today for $99, Goji Play is compatible with the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch, and can be used with most cardio equipment including treadmills, stationary and recumbent bicycles, and elliptical machines.

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Athos: Smart Fabric Measures Every Breath, Heartbeat and Muscle Exertion

A smart fabric plus an accelerometer core creates the next level in quantified performance clothing. I spoke with Athos founding team members, Dhananja Jayalath, Chris Wiebe, and Joel Seligstein to learn more about the technology behind Athos.

What’s so special about Athos fabric?

DJ: “The cloth has sensors that are built directly into the fabric. With ECG sensors and muscle output sensors integrated into the clothing, you can very accurately measure heart rate and muscle effort. The Core is the analytics module of the sensors – it’s essentially the computer that collects and analyzes all the stats and sends the data to the mobile app.”

Why did you opt for clothing instead of a wrist / arm wearable?

DJ: “We wanted to capture data from multiple points. We wanted to capture info from your biceps, quads and triceps, which our fabric lets us do. By building the sensors into clothing we think it also makes it easy to use and remember, and helps create a routine.” Since all the sensors are built in, you’ll be able to measure heart rate without a chest strap and get real-time responsive input on how to best train for your goals.

“We believe that apparel is going to get smarter, it’s not just something you cover yourself up with anymore. Athletes will get an advantage in training with Athos unlike what a simple wicking shirt or compression shorts provide.”

Who is your target audience?

Chris: “People who are going on 6am rides or heading to the gym 3-5 times a week with the goal of getting better and stronger – that is our target market.” Athos apparel is focused on people who want to get better at their fitness goals and those who want to analyze their performance and continue to do better. The company’s differentiation factor is that they aren’t trying to motivate stationary people to move more – they want to help athletes be more efficient and train harder. Athos would be an ideal partner for sports teams, events like the Olympics, gyms, and trainers.

“We’ve talked internally about how our data is good enough for pros to use so that they can train for their events but still approachable enough for the average consumer to use.”

How is the app user experience?

Joel: “We are using the app to give tailored insight to what your body is doing. For weightlifters counting reps is important, but if you are riding a bike, cadence and balance and pushing vs. pulling on the pedal is important. Long term, we’ll continue to iterate and make things customized.“

What is the key takeaway here?

DJ: “We are not just about collecting data – we are about giving the user a great experience. We are not just about the hardware – we want to deliver performance and comfort in something that is unique and useful.”
 

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Withings Pulse: Little Tracker, Big Heart (Rate Monitoring)

I had first mentioned the Withings Pulse in June and have finally gotten around to testing it.

What sets the Pulse apart from other pocket-sized wearables is the heart rate monitor on the back of the device, which can measure your heart beat in a few seconds. Since I already have the Withings Smart Body Analyzer Scale and mobile app, my Pulse data gets uploaded to the same place as my weight measurements.

Pros:
1. Two week battery life – I rarely charge it and when I do it uses the same charger as most Android phones. Easy.
2. Heart rate monitor makes it more competitive than the Fitbit One.
3. The online portal is robust and you can download all your data – which is pretty cool for those of us who like data.

Cons:
1. Less accurate than similar wearables. I did not run 8.5 miles at a 7:41 pace last Sunday. In fact, that Sunday was the day after a gorgeous destination wedding, where I unwillingly dragged myself to the gym and did 7 miles at a 10 min/mile pace on a treadmill. For a device + app that knows my height, weight, heart rate, etc. it is surprisingly inaccurate. This was also after the software update.
2. Clip format makes it difficult to use. No surprises here – this is a common complaint of mine for clips in general. There is a reason the Fitbit Flex and the new Fitbit Force are wrist wearables – it is easier to have on at all times. The Pulse is also not waterproof, unlike the Jawbone UP, which I wear into the shower. Every time I change clothes (work clothes, workout clothes, home/lounge clothes, pjs) I have to remember to remove and move the Pulse.
3. Bluetooth upload a little slow – especially if you have a weeks worth of data to upload.

Final thoughts? The Pulse is a nice wearable pocket companion – bonus if you already have the scale. I’m sure as Withings starts to collect more data and tune the Pulse the data collection will only become more and more accurate. At this price point, the Pulse competes with the Fitbit One, which doesn’t have a heart rate monitor.

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OnTheGo Platforms: Using Glass with the Ghost of Running Past

I always run faster in races. When I’m doing a training run, my thoughts tend to wander – I think about my to do list or run various scenarios through my mind. During a race, I spend most of my time thinking about how I should maneuver through a crowded group or how to most quickly pass the person in front of me. I also generally run faster during the second half of a running event, pushing for a negative split as some runners start to tire. But during training runs, I grow complacent, focus less on running, and my mind set is not on competition – it’s on finishing.

I could find a running partner – one who runs at my pace, doesn’t want to have a conversation while we run, and who can make him or herself available based on my schedule – or I can (soon) get a virtual running partner. OnTheGo Platforms is creating apps for smart glasses like Google Glass. Their showcase application, Ghost Runner, shows a ‘ghost’ (when you fall behind) that appears running in pace with your old time. Now you can ‘race’ with the old you – and with each progression, you push yourself to steadily run faster. This is a great start to glasses optimized running / fitness applications and a good proof of concept for Glass. I look forward to seeing more great ideas and apps from OnTheGo.

Ghost Runner Leader board from OnTheGo Platforms on Vimeo.

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PUSH: Quantify Your Strength, Track Your Power

People like to exaggerate. “I benched 350 yesterday,” says your office brah’. Now you can tell him to prove it.

PUSH is a new wearable device – an armband + a mobile app – that tracks and analyzes your performance at the gym. Specifically targeting strength workouts, PUSH tracks metrics including force, power, balance and consistency of your training and pushes you to train harder or ease up based on your performance. You can use PUSH to track squats, dead lifts, pull ups, bench presses and more – just about your entire CrossFit workout can be monitored. The device straps onto your arm and lets you review your progress on the app in real time. In addition to sharing your results with friends and competing with them, PUSH can create personalized workout routines to best improve your training without overdoing it, preventing injuries.

You can check out their Indiegogo campaign and get your PUSH, schedule for April/May 2014 delivery.

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Interview: Kyle Samani, Founder and CEO of Pristine – Healthcare Innovation with Google Glass

When Google revealed Google Glass, the first question I got asked was, “How will this change healthcare?” There is no one better to answer that question than Kyle Samani, Founder and CEO of Pristine, a startup in Austin, TX that develops Google Glass apps for surgery. Kyle is also a healthcare blogger, writing for HIStalk and TechZulu. Kyle answered my most pressing questions about his journey from first seeing Glass, to creating Pristine.

When did you first try Google Glass and when did you know that it would change healthcare?

I wore Google Glass for the first time in February of this year. The light bulb went off instantly because I’d been working in the electronic health record (EHR) industry for 3 years. I spent one year as an engineering team lead, one year as technical sales lead, and one year as product manager for a wide variety of clinical applications (EHR, CPOE, Perioperative care, LIS, RIS, PACS, PAS, Patient Portal, etc), so I got to see the development, sales, and deployment cycles of health IT from a bunch of unique perspectives. With that knowledge and experience, it was immediately clear to me that Glass would drive an array of new point-of-care apps.

Since my background was in EHRs, the original vision for the company was to extend the EHR onto Glass. I gave up on that by mid-May, just as I recruited Patrick, my cofounder and CTO. We threw that vision away because we realized that it would be impossible to overcome HL7 integration challenges. Our first investor was an anesthesiologist, and he really opened our eyes to the opportunities for Glass in the OR. We’ve been actively working on what are now Pristine CheckLists and Pristine EyeSight since late May.

What is Pristine’s mission?

Pristine’s mission: We empower healthcare professionals to deliver safer, more coordinated, more cost effective care by utilizing cutting edge technologies to do what was once impossible.

Essentially, we want to pioneer new technologies in medicine to help healthcare professionals deliver care in ways that were never before possible. Our engineering team has deep technical expertise across almost ever layer of the technology stack, and substantial experience with almost every major field of human computer interaction (HCI), including audio, video, touch, gesture sensing, and more. Our business team knows the modern US healthcare environment, with years of experience working closely for or with payers, providers, and technology vendors. We hold strong views as to where things are going, and we work closely with our engineering teams and the latest technologies to shape what we believe will be the future of care delivery.

You are one of the first companies to innovate in this space. What’s it like being on the forefront?

As exciting as it is to pioneer new technologies, it’s also been quite challenging. For example, one of the greatest impediments to Pristine’s success today is, unfortunately, lack of hardware. Google is not helping enterprise-focused developers such as ourselves; they are completely consumer-focused. We have 10 Glass units today, with 12 or so inbound. Until recently, we really didn’t have enough hardware to roll out Glass widely.

We’re trying to break one of the most fundamental assumptions in care delivery: that you need to be in room X to provide value and care in room X. We need as many hardware units as possible in as many rooms as possible to prove the value. If you or anyone you know has a Glass or some spare Glass invites, can you please email me? It would really help us perform more rigorous testing across a range of care environments.

Besides lack of hardware, we’re dealing with what are pretty common technical issues when you’re on the forefront of technology: buggy hardware and software. Our technical foundation, Glass hardware and a modified version of Android, still have lots of problems, but that’s to be expected. In many ways, it provides our engineers with enticing challenges, although as CEO I wish we encountered fewer technical hurdles.

On the other hand, the business side of things has been incredible. I’m a first time entrepreneur, and I can safely say this has been the single most important, most educational, most fun thing I’ve ever done in my life. I think that rings true for every one of our employees as well. I’ve read about how hard it is to get off the ground and answer the existential startup question. We’ve been incredibly lucky that so many talented people, doctors, provider organizations, and investors have supported us so early on. Very few startups have the opportunity to raise as much capital as we have, and even fewer have the opportunity to so quickly deploy and test across over half a dozen clinical departments in live care environments, including the OR, ICU, and ER.

What’s amazing is that we’re just at the beginning of what can be done. We’re at the cusp of a major hardware renaissance powered by increasingly small yet powerful mobile systems-on-a-chip (SoCs). These SoCs are driving a quantified civilization. Pristine is incredibly excited to figure out how to support providers at the point of care using these new technologies.

Tell us what you are hoping your current Glass products will do for the healthcare system.

We’re trying to shape the next generation of telemedicine solutions. To be clear, we’re not trying to compete with Teladoc or Ringadoc and the dozens of at-home, self-service telemedicine companies that’re springing up. We’re delivering telemedicine solutions when patients are already interacting with care providers.

Mobile cameras, processors, and Wi-Fi antennas are good enough to deliver telemedicine anytime, anywhere, in 1st person. That means that we’re enabling telemedicine and video communications literally everywhere in every care environment. But our ambitions extend far beyond telemedicine. Pristine EyeSight (1st person audio and video streaming) will become the de facto training tool for most jobs that require hands-on work.

In addition to telemedicine and communications, we’re also using Glass to implement process control where it was never before ergonomically possible. Because Glass is inherently hands-free, we can implement checklists literally anywhere in the hospital, and that’s exactly what we’re doing. We believe that checklists should be implemented in any process in which the cost of being wrong is unacceptable: instrument cleaning, drug preparation, complicated tests and procedures, etc.

You are running a pilot with UC Irvine. How has that been and what have you learned?

I’ve personally worked with staff at over 2 dozen hospitals. I can safely say that the staff across every department – IT, surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, ICU, ER, sim lab – at UC Irvine have been the best I’ve ever worked with. They are forward thinking, open to new ideas and new ways of doing things, and understanding that this is a beta product. Despite all of the technical challenges we face, they’ve been extremely supportive and accommodating. We cannot thank them enough for their patience and for helping us refine our software. We didn’t realize how difficult the testing process would be for our solutions: there are literally dozens of opportunities for failure that are completely outside of our control. We have been extremely fortunate to work with a group of people that want to see us succeed.

We have learned a tremendous amount at UC Irvine. First and foremost, audio and video streaming is just the tip of the iceberg. We’ve developed just as much supporting technology as we have core audio/video streaming. Delivering a seamless, elegant, user experience on a new form factor requires a lot of thought, a lot of refinement, and a lot of work. The best technology is the least visible. We’ve spent an enormous amount of time working to make the entire user experience – unboxing, setup, training, charging, updating, connecting, communicating, disconnecting, etc. – look easy and seamless. We assume responsibility for everything that directly impacts the user experience across software, hardware, and training and deployment methodologies.

As an entrepreneur, what is one piece of advice you’d give to people who are thinking about starting their own company?

First, I would read all of my blog posts about entrepreneurship. I don’t mean to selfishly promote, but I’ve spent a great deal of time addressing this question and try to provide tips, tricks, and advice for others so that they don’t make the same mistakes I did. I’m certainly not the most qualified to tell aspiring entrepreneurs how to develop ideas, customer development, product / market fit, and some of the other major startup principles, but I have a knack for hacking the world to get things done.

I think the most important thing that I’ve learned is not to give up. Some days are really bad. I’ll develop short-lived doubts. Other days are spectacularly good.

I am, for the first time in my life, accountable not just to one or two other people, but dozens: employees, their families, advisors, investors, partners, and prospects. Everyone has bet on me and our team. Once we’re live with our 1.0 product, I’ll be accountable to tens of thousands of patients that I will never meet.

Whenever something goes wrong, I feel my stomach drop, and I worry that I’m going to let down all of my stakeholders. I cannot describe the feeling, but I can tell you that it’s one of the most unnerving feelings in the world. I literally live and breathe Pristine all day, everyday, and sensing that it could vanish provides for a mental roller coaster ride.

Maintaining stature during challenging times is one of the great signs of leadership. I’m still learning how to do that, but I think it’s one of the hardest and most important things entrepreneurs, particularly startup CEOs, can do.

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Basis: Multiple Sensors Track Exercise and Sleep Accurately and Automatically

Basis is a supercharged fitness tracker. The watch uses multiple sensors to track heart rate patterns throughout the day as well as a perspiration and skin temperature changes to measure exertion levels. Basis uses these data points to paint a more exact picture of calories burned and sleep patterns.

I took the watch on a 6 mile run to see how well the tracking worked, and I was impressed. The data is compiled clearly and accurately, so you can monitor your daily activity and make small changes to be more consistent. The online portal compares activity metrics on a double axis so you can see changes in your heart rate compared to calories burned or steps taken.

The beauty in the watch is that there is no need for the user to signal activity changes. As you can see from my data, I took a nap from 5-6:30PM. Other fitness trackers would note this as ‘idle time’ but Basis knows that I fell asleep because it is tracking my heart rate, which dropped and became more steady while I was sleeping. Basis emails me whenever I reach a goal – like running an Afternoon Lap, and it syncs my data via Bluetooth to my iPhone app.

While the watch has a larger face than an UP band or Fitbit, the added sensor functionality gives it additional analytics power. If you are running with a Garmin or Suunto already, you won’t notice the Basis on your wrist. For people who prefer a smaller wearable device, the technology will only get more compact. This is definitely one company to follow.

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Thoughts on Healthcare and Life: A Little Self Reflection

Big thanks to Melissa Thompson for sharing my thoughts on healthcare wearables on her blog, Quantified30 and naming Alexisavvy a Best Healthcare Blog.

Here’s a snippet of my interview below. For more, visit Quantified30.

MT: What are the top three devices/apps you consistently wear and use these days? 

“Withings Scale – I really love this scale! I never used to track my weight but I do now – I get on the scale every other morning at the same time and in the same clothes. If I weigh in a little heavier in the morning, I try to eat healthier, drink more water or go for a run that day.

RunKeeper App – I like tracking my runs and I take photos after running to capture the scenery. There is something very rewarding about pulling up my running times and distances for the week. Also, I’m very focused on negative splits and RunKeeper does a great job tracking that and gives other interesting stats about my exercise.

Any wearable tracker I’m writing about – I go through phases where I will wear a tracker for a while before and after I write about it. I think I wore the Fitbit One for a month and the Mistfit Shine for a little longer. I’ve consistently worn the Jawbone UP because I love the way it looks, but as you’ve probably read in my latest post on the Jawbone UP, it still has some issues, as does most wearables. I’m looking forward to the Fitbit Force next!”   

MT: How has writing Alexisavvy for a year and half changed your habits or your life in general?

“When I was a healthcare private equity investor, I was often asked by friends for my opinion on which wearables I liked best, or what cool consumer health app I would invest in. And honestly, I couldn’t really give them an answer because in my day job I was looking to invest in pharmaceutical companies and lab businesses, not consumer health tech companies. So Alexisavvy.com was born – and yes, it’s definitely made me more aware of my exercise and diet. I’ve reviewed more than eighty wearable devices and apps and each time I try to test the product. My experience with Sessions has gotten me to run at least four times a week and I look forward to my walks to and from work.”

After answering Melissa’s questions, I was intrigued to see how exactly my weight fluctuated since I started Alexisavvy. I looked back on my Withings Scale data, various app analytics, and my health records – from early 2011 to October 2013, I lost 10% of my body weight and kept up with regular exercise (something I didn’t do in college or banking). I can’t properly conclude whether this is because I changed jobs, moved to a more running friendly environment, or started a healthcare blog. However, I do know that keeping track of my health and exercise has kept me better in tune with my body.

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