How’s that for a headline? That’s the story that caught my eye on this NBC – Today show article that talks about the Fitbit, Jawbone Up and Nike Fuelband tracking technology and its impact on people’s weight. First, it’s worth noting that the Today show is talking about fitness trackers. That’s a great sign of the mainstream appeal of these fitness trackers. Although, I guess we have to ask if it’s a fad.
However, back to the original part of the story. Does the FitBit make you gain weight? Obviously, a medical device doesn’t make you gain weight or make you lose weight. However, the information it offers you can influence the choices you make. The article talks about how one person compared the estimated calories burn vs the estimated calories eaten and there was a disconnect with what was happening with their body. According to the fitbit, they were burning a lot more calories than they were taking in, but they were still gaining weight.
What this highlights to me is something most of us have known forever. Weight loss is really hard and is a much more complicated problem than we want it to be. It’s simple to say that it should just be a mathematical equation of calories in and calories burned, but it’s not that simple. People’s metabolism matters. The type of calories you eat matters. I could keep going, but you get the point.
We should of course know this since the weight loss industry has to be a trillion dollar industry. People will spend hordes of money losing weight. Unfortunately, much of that money is spent on things that don’t get results. However, it’s worth noting that it’s not often the devices fault as much as the user error (or lack of user use).
Let’s also be clear that we’re still really early on in the fitness tracker and other wearable sensor technology evolution. Five more years from now I think the sensors and algorithms will be so much better than today. Although, I might be most hopeful that people will find some amazing psychological solutions that really change people’s behavior for good. The potential is there to make an enormous difference in so many people’s lives.
I’ve had a number of long and deep discussions with people about seniors and their adoption of technology to deal with their health. So, I was really hit by this tweet I saw a few months ago about Seniors and their access to wifi:
— Elin Silveous (@ElinSilveous) April 29, 2014
I imagine that some would argue that many seniors don’t need wifi since they’re just going to use the internet on their phone. This is a fair point that’s worthy of deeper consideration and understanding. However, I find really interesting that so many seniors don’t have Wifi. I’ll be watching to see how this changes over time.
I guess the key healthcare question is: How important will wifi be to the future of healthcare?
While I love what’s happening in the mobile space, our data plans aren’t ready for what we can accomplish on wifi. I don’t see them getting there for a while either. Plus, our mobile phones become even more powerful when they’re connected to wifi. Kind of reminds me of the difference between when I paid for long distance by the minute versus our current unlimited long distance plan. That’s the difference between mobile data and wifi.
Of course, every good senior healthcare technology aficionado will tell you that in many cases the senior doesn’t need to have internet or be tech savvy. The seniors aren’t the ones that will use the technology. It’s the caregivers that are going to use the technology and you can be sure to a large majority of them have wifi.
Over the years I’ve learned a lot about startup companies. I love startup companies and I love working with people who can start with nothing and create something interesting. We need more of that in healthcare.
I recently realized how important it is that a health startup company realizes who they are and what’s in their DNA. As a startup company you don’t have the money or resources to be able to attack multiple markets, multiple product lines and see what works. So, it’s extremely important that you know who you are and don’t try and be something you’re not.
A great example of this is reflected in this questions: Are you an enterprise company or a slow and steady bootstrapper?
This question explains a totally different mentality when it comes to a startup company. Both of them can work, but these two types of startup companies will act very different. You shouldn’t mix the two or you’ll waste your limited resources in the process.
Let me explain a little better. A health startup company that is an “enterprise company” has to create an enterprise product. This means including enterprise features. This also means that you’ll need to prepare for the enterprise sales process. It’s much more involved and much more difficult. However, when you make a sale, they are for half a million dollars minimum. It’s a high risk, high reward way to approach building a product, but can work really well if you can solve an enterprise problem or are working in a space where the enterprise has allocated money. The enterprise approach takes quite a bit of up front capital to build the enterprise features and enterprise sales force required to be a success. While this has a high bar to participate it also means you won’t have nearly as many competitors.
On the other hand is the slow and steady bootstrapped approach. Instead of going after the big enterprise customers, this startup focuses on creating the simplest product possible that provides value to a company or even an individual. Instead of building an entire salesforce, they can rely on direct customer sales using social media, advertising, and other direct to consumer marketing techniques. They have to focus on user acquisition, user churn, and user referrals to grow the business. Instead of trying to build an enterprise product they focus on a very specific piece of value and deliver just that one thing. Over time this may eventually lead to an enterprise product and they may use the initial small customers to get them into the larger customers, but that’s not the focus of the growth of the business. That’s a long range plan.
What I’ve found is that many startups don’t know what type of company they are and so they waste a lot of resources trying both sides. This is a mistake that can be easily avoided. Figure out which type of company you want to be and build a culture around that approach. That doesn’t mean that you might not adjust course and try something different later. However, in the beginning it’s a mistake for most companies to try and be a direct to consumer product and an enterprise product at the same time.
We’ve written about Google Glass before, but now Google has partnered with a Swiss company to bring their Google Eye technology to the market. Here’s a short description from this Venture Beat article:
Google and Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis announced this morning that they will be collaborating on bringing Google’s smart contact lens technology, which contains sensors for tracking things like blood glucose levels for diabetics, to consumers.
Specifically, Novartis says it’s interested in the tech’s glucose-sensing capabilities for diabetics, as well as its potential for helping people with presbyopia, who can’t read without glasses. The smart lens technology could eventually help to fix the eye’s autofocus capabilities for nearby objects, potentially by implanting it directly into the eye.
Let’s make sure that you don’t think this contact lens is going to replace Google Glass. We’re not there yet, but don’t be surprised if it gets there some day. These new smart contact lens are more like the variety of health sensors that are hitting the market than they are a Google Glass replacement. For purposes of this site, that’s just as cool.
I’ve often argued that we need to prepare ourselves for a wave of health sensors that are coming. This smart contact lens is another great example of this wave.
I’m sure we’ve all been intrigued by the progress that’s being made on 3D printing organs. If you’re like me, the idea blows you away when you see mention of it on Twitter or you see the concepts on a show like Grey’s Anatomy. The fact that we can 3D print an organ at all is astonishing and provides some really interesting opportunities for research. However, we’re quite a ways from actually being able to 3D print an organ that we can transplant into a human body.
Transplanting a 3D printed organ into a human body is indeed the holy grail of 3D printing organs. There are so many people who die every year as they wait on the organ transplant list (Side Note: Sign up to be a donor). If we could 3D print them an organ, we could possibly save thousands of people’s lives.
While TV shows and mentions on Twitter make it sound pretty easy, a deeper dive into the 3D printing of organs shows how complex the process really is to create a human organ that actually functions. This was incredibly illustrated by this article on 3DPrint.com that talks about the need to not only 3D print the organ, but also to create the vascular network that’s needed to furnish the organ with an ongoing blood supply. Here’s an excerpt from the article:
With that said, there is still one major hurdle to get us from the tiny sheets of 3D printed organ tissue, to that of entire 3D printed organs, which could one day be created by a patient’s own stem cells, and transplanted to save their life. That hurdle is the vascularisation of those organs. Every cell within a human organ, such as the liver, kidney or heart are within a hair’s width of a blood supply. This is an incredibly complex setup, one which up until now, researchers have found to be a nightmare to overcome when dealing with bioprinting. Without an adequate vascular network, the cells would be starved of oxygen, as well as a means to excrete waste, causing them to die and making the printed organs worthless.
The rest of the story is always more complex than the headlines. The great part is that in that same article the talk about some work by scientists from the Universities of Sydney, Harvard, Stanford and MIT working together to 3D print a network of stable capillaries. Even the description of the process is complex, but basically they’ve figured out a way to create tiny spaces where blood could flow.
Stories like this are extremely exciting, but also show just how far we have to go before we’ll be able to 3D print an organ. Really amazing work.
The following is a guest blog post by Lauren Still.
For those hoping the new Android Wear devices coupled with Google Fit would be some sort of mashup of a Basis-type fitness tracker and Google Now notifications, well, you’re going to have to wait some more. Last week at I/O, Google previewed the three new smartwatches running their new wearable device OS: Samsung Gear Live, LG G Watch and Motorola’s Moto360. Both the Samsung and LG will be available for order after the first week of July, and the Moto360 is planned for late summer.
Between the LG and Samsung, the devices are near identical with the major differences being in stylistic hardware design. Both devices have the same processor (1.2GHz), storage and memory (4GB, 512MB respectively), have your standard Bluetooth 4.0 LE, accelerometer, gyro and compass as well as being water resistant for up to 30 min in a meter of water. Neither device has a speaker, or the ability to send audio navigation directions or information to bluetooth headphones, and any “Ok Google” searches return with cards, where information can then be pushed to the user’s mobile device.
The major technical differences show up in the display: the LG has a 280 x 280 IPS LCD, while the Samsung sports a 320 x 320 SuperAMOLED display. The resolution isn’t a major difference, but the Samsung does come off a with a bit more umph. Regardless, don’t expect to be able to see either display in bright sunlight.
Both device batteries are expected to last at least a full day on a single charge, but with the LG’s larger 400mAh capacity and lower-level screen, users may end up pulling more time from the device, even though the AMOLED has an overall lower power consumption during long displays of black pixels. Current battery life usage tests for both show about a 60% drop over 12 hours of fairly active use. Charging back to full strength from there takes about an hour for the Samsung and around 90-minutes on the LG model. The LG model has a magnetic charging base which is incredibly convenient and streamlined, while the Samsung design is clumsy and awkward to click in, and does not lay flat.
The Samsung also includes a heart rate monitor, and while that may seem valuable to the healthcare crowd, it’s only implemented as an on-demand feature so don’t expect any continuous data tracking for now. Additionally, Samsung has a pretty bad track record when it comes to heart rate monitor accuracy, so actual applicability in any use is TBD. Even with the HR monitor and better display, the Samsung is the less expensive option at $199, with LG being an additional $30.
The dimensions are nearly the same, as are the weights, with the LG being a bit heavier and with a slightly smaller footprint. Both devices are on the clunkier side with large square displays. Stylistically, the LG takes on a more “sport look” and is straight black with a replaceable soft matted rubber strap, traditional buckle and very squared off face. The Samsung’s casing is far more refined being a near match to their older Gear 2, with beveled edges and a silver boarder finish, but the clasping mechanism on the fixed sportband is a nub-button style making it feel less secure.
Side by side, it will probably come down to fit and comfort for most users. The LG, being very flat, tends to irritate the wrist bones on those users with smaller or bonier wrists, even at looser strap settings. The Samsung’s back has a slight taper, and will be more comfortable. There’s also a physical on/off button hidden on the bottom of the Samsung, but given the use model of the devices it seems a little unnecessary and just one more thing to break.
Both devices are quite responsive to gesture control, and there’s been no noticeable lag in screen activation through this feature.
As far as the OS goes, Android Wear works mostly the same regardless of which device it’s on. This includes standard settings like screen dimming and activation, notifications through Google Now, Google Fit functionality and voice command. Visually, the major difference is the “clock” face with several Google OEM options available, and then each device having a few more choices. Notifications pop up on the bottom of both devices, and swipe directions to control actions are consistent across both models, typically giving users the option to mute, view, reply or push information to the user’s phone.
Voice commands start with the classic “Ok Google…” just as with mobile devices, but includes a few wearable specific commands such as take a note, reminders, steps, send a text/email, etc. Google has no plans to segregate Android Wear apps from the rest of the Play Store, so functionally any application downloaded to a user’s phone that has a Wear component will be synced to the device as well.
So, aside from seeing what the final OS looks like upon public release, and what apps will be available in the near future, the remaining major question is how the Moto360 stacks up against the other two devices. The specs aren’t fully released, but given how close the other two compare on a technical level, expect it to at least make par. What is known about the Moto360 is that it has a much more classical look and feel, with round face, stainless steel accents, leather straps, a physical button and will likely be dust and water resistant.
The watch is still on the bulky side, with the face about as large around as a silver dollar, and the casing is about as thick as the others. The round design appeals to both genders, and will fit smaller wrists better aesthetically and bonier wrists more comfortably (n=1 in this very scientific study). The display also flips, unlike the other two, for users who prefer devices on the right arm. As for charging, the backside is port-fee, and appears to be an induction based design, and that also points to some possible contact based bio-sensor functionality. Motorola states that battery life was “made a priority” based on lessons learned from developing their first smartwatch. Again, if much of this current design is a pivot from the first attempt, there’s a reasonable expectation that there will be more fitness tracking functionality in the Moto360 than in the Samsung or LG watches, but Motorola is being rather coy on those points.
Unfortunately, for fitness tracker users looking for an Android integrated option, none of these devices are there yet, but there is the potential once apps come into the marketplace for Android Wear and especially once the GoogleFit SDK is released. For previous Pebble owners looking for a notification device replacement with a little more flexibility, all three are good options, and it really just comes down to aesthetic preferences. In either case, it’s probably worth waiting a couple months for the Moto360, as it really seems the most promising of the three.
And on a more depressing note, this really signals the end for cross-platform smart watches like the Pebble as both Apple and Google work their way into developing truly connected, fluidly integrated platform-specific devices.
I was really interested to watch and see how the InstaMD IndieGogo campaign would do. Here’s their video preview of the product:
I think the trend of making vital signs tracking easy is an important one. Although, I wasn’t sold on the use of an existing stethoscope with a headset being the modality that would be found interesting by users. The problem is that most patients don’t just have a stethoscope laying around the house. So, you have to buy the stethoscope and the InstaMD headset. Plus, those two items together with your mobile device feels quite cumbersome.
Considering the campaign only got 9 funders of their project reaching $546 raised, I have a feeling many others saw it the same way I did.
While InstaMD wasn’t a success on IndieGogo (and maybe they’ll find success outside of that platform), I think that much of their thinking is correct. We’re going to want to track our vital signs in a really simple, effective way. So, I guess it’s fair to say that I’m bearish on InstaMD’s technology, but I’m bullish on the future of personal health monitoring and personal health data tracking.
Everyone is buzzing over the latest announcement from Apple at the World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) that an Apple Health app and HealthKit (for healthcare developers) will be included in the latest iOS release (iOS8). The announcement was a little weak for me because it had already been leaked that the announcement was coming and also because the details of what it will do are really glossed over.
Whenever I hear an announcement without many details I start to wonder if it’s just vaporware right now. I think it is in this case. Instead of Apple offering a healthcare product that they know people need and will use, it feels like they’ve seen the growth of the health tracker and wearables market and they’re just throwing something out there to see if it works.
This HuffPo article compared the Apple HealthKit to what Apple did in iTunes. That’s so out of touch with the reality of healthcare apps. Music is a simple thing (not the rights part, but the usage part) that everyone understands. If you give them the music, then the consumer can go to town with it. Health data is much more complex.
The reality of health data is that it often has little value without some sort of outside expert analysis. This becomes even more important when you start mixing multiple sources of data into one interface like Apple will be doing with HealthKit. Sure, if Apple was focused on making all of the data they collected from all these third parties into smart, actionable data, then I’d be really excited. However, they’re not doing this at all. They’re just going to be a dumb platform that anyone can connect to and the smartest thing it will do is send you a notification. However, the outside application will have to prompt it to even do that.
I don’t think that Apple HealthKit is all bad. Maybe it will make it easier for developers to code their application once and then be able to connect their application to any blood pressure cuff out there. If they can do that, it would provide a lot of value to entrepreneurs in the space. However, it won’t transform health as we know it the way some people are describing it.
I also love people propping up the names of the Mayo Clinic and Epic. Google Health and Microsoft HealthVault had some similar names as well. How are they doing? A name doesn’t mean you’ll get a result.
The Epic name is interesting. However, I’m not very confident that bringing one closed garden together with another closed garden is really going to produce a lot of results. I’ll get back to you when I actually see them announce what they’re really doing together. Until then, this just feels like Epic and Apple had dinner together and said that it would be great if they could work together. If they had more, they sure didn’t talk about it on stage. So, I’m skeptical of what will really come out of the partnership.
Fred Pennic over at HIT Consultant posted a great story about the new $50 million digital health initiative coming out of Samsung. Here’s a portion of Fred’s article about the announcement:
The new initiative will utilize a new health open reference design platform tailored to take advantage of the latest sensors, behavioral algorithms, battery technologies and displays.
To aggressively support this initiative, Samsung has also announced a $50 million investment fund dedicated to innovative start-ups and technologies in the digital health space. The goal of the fund is to stimulate creative new approaches to digital health and Samsung’s open platforms.
I’ve long been interested in the role that cell phone companies will play in the digital health space and specifically in the health sensors space. There’s always been a bit of a problem for me with the various health sensors out there in the market today. I just don’t care enough about them to wear one every day. The watch comes closest to a natural product that I could see myself wearing it regularly, but the clip on products just aren’t something I want to do every day. I have too many other things to think about.
Of course, you wouldn’t catch most of us without our cell phones on us. This is why it’s always made sense why the cell phone would be the ultimate health tracker. It doesn’t require a habit change by the end user.
Until this cell phone-health sensor vision comes to fruition we’re going to have to limp along with these other wearable technologies and no doubt Samsung wants to be a major player in that space so they know which ones are worth integrating into their cell phones down the road. With that in mind, $50 million seems like a small investment for them to make in the space.
I personally see this $50 million fund as a small down payment by Samsung on what will likely become a much larger investment for them in healthcare.