Wearables/fitness apps & devices market heats up with Google Fit pending launch

Google appears set to give Apple’s pending Health app a run for its money with the forthcoming launch of the Google Fit tools. The competition should really benefit consumers and health care (Google has already released the developer’s kit). In announcing the kit, Google said the new tools will provide:

“… a single set of APIs for apps and device manufacturers to store and access activity data from fitness apps and sensors on Android and other devices (like wearables, heart rate monitors or connected scales). This means that with the user’s permission, you can get access to the user’s fitness history — enabling you to provide more interesting features in your app like personalized coaching, better insights, fitness recommendations and more.”

The releases only cover local storage of data, with cloud storage to follow.  As Forbes notes, that’s where the competition with Apple will be fierce:

Google Fit will integrate with a number of solutions from Google. Your Android powered smartphone or tablet is the obvious first point of contact, but you should also consider Google Fit’s potential integration with Google Glass and the Android Wear smartwatch program. All of these devices can use their sensor suite to gather and relay health data.”

As with Apple Health, Google wants developers and device manufacturers to settle on its standard as the hub for collection and integration of health and fitness data, while it may not be in the individual company’s best interests to commit to a single proprietary standard. As Forbes‘ Ewan Spence predicted, it’s unlikely that any end users are going to change platforms for their devices just because of new health apps and devices.

I guess it would be inappropriate to refer to any potential “killer apps” that could sway anyone in this category, eh?

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Internet of Things interview I did with Jordan Rich

Didn’t realize this had run several weeks ago, but here’s an introduction to the IoT (based on my SAP “Managing the Internet of Things” i-guide) that I did with Jordan Rich of WBZ Radio, who’s also my voice-over mentor.  The examples include the GE Durathon battery plant, “smart aging,” Shodan, the SAP prototype smart vending machine and Ivee. Enjoy!

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Detailing my “Smart Aging” through the IoT vision

The best-laid plans get canceled due to Summer vacation…

I was supposed to speak to seniors (and those who love or care for them!) today in my dear little burg, Medfield, MA, about my “Smart Aging” through the IoT vision. However, the talk has been postponed til September due to the small number of sign-ups. Oh well, I guess most revolutions start with a whimper, not a bang.

Because I believe so strongly in the idea, I’ve posted the talk (including presenter’s notes) to SlideShare.

Basically, it fleshes out what I’ve written in a number of recent posts, that I believe we can and must meld two aspects of the IoT, Quantified Self wearable devices that measure and record personal health and wellness data 24/7 and smart home devices such as the Nest thermostat and Ivee voice-activated base station, to create a new approach to aging. I defined smart aging as:

using senior-friendly home and health technology to cut your health and living costs,
improve your health and quality of life, and keep you in your own home as long as possible.

I predicted that it can “bring unprecedented health and happiness to our senior years — while saving us  money!”

While there have been efforts for a while to specifically use technology to improve aging, I predicted that

“Smart Aging will instead result from tweaking efforts underway as part of the Internet of Things to improve life for everyone, of all ages. As Joe Coughlin, director of MIT’s AgeLab, says, ‘Counterintuitively, making home automation mainstream and cool means that it’s likely to end up in the hands of older adults sooner than if home automation technologies were only designed specifically for older people.’”

(that’s why I suspect that wearables such as the Nike Fuel or prototype MC10 for jocks will be more important for seniors than anything specifically designed for them — and will face fewer obstacles to adoption).

I stressed that there are still important obstacles, not only the security and privacy ones that are essential for ANY IoT product or service, but also some that are specific to seniors, such as preserving their dignity and letting them control who will share access to their data.

I concluded that this approach will pay multiple benefits:

  • Improve your health & fitness
  • Cut your medical bills
  • Build your self-esteem
  • Cut your living costs
  • Let you stay at home, safely.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject.

Will sports-star wearables make them cool enough for general public?

OK, first an admission of guilt: I don’t synch my Jawbone UP every day (although now that my wife and I are sharing results and challenging each other, that’s subject to change).  Evidently, I’m not alone: I read stats somewhere (can’t remember the source) that about 40-50% of all Quantified Self device users stop using them within the first six months.

But that’s not the big problem: that’s the fact that only a very small percentage of the population ever uses the devices at all, despite their benefits for health and fitness.

Part of the answer, IMHO, is making them sooo simple to use that you’d automatically use them (for example, I like the fact that the Lose It! app nags me every day if I haven’t entered my diet, activity, or weight), but the other factor is creating a cool factor about wearables. I read recently about a VC in Silicon Valley who always wears her Jawbone to cocktail parties because it starts conversations, but Silicon Valley VCs aren’t generally regarded as celebrities in the heartland, so I’m thinking more about sports stars.

biostamp

Now there’s a Boston-area startup, MC10, that might just make that breakthrough.  According to The Boston Globe, the company has a number of 1st-rank sports luminaries as investors/advisors, including former NBA star Grant Hill, hoop coach John Thompson III,  Indianapolis Colts quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Matt Hasselbeck, soccer star Kristine Lilly, and four-time Olympic women’s ice hockey medalist Angela Ruggiero.

The company’s first product is the translucent, stick-on Biostamp, due to be released next year. “The device, a barely visible 2-square-inch patch, is designed to stick on any body part like a second skin and record biometric data from heart rate and hydration levels to muscle activity and sleep patterns.”  It’s likely to replace the current, bulky and obtrusive devices for serious athletes. 

According to The Globe, there is about a dozen companies developing similar devices for jocks.

I’ve got a big collection of ball caps (primarily those of The Team That Shall Not Be Mentioned This Year, the one that “plays” [as it were…] @ Fenway Park), and an equal number of T’s from the same guys. Obviously, fans love to bond with their fav jocks by wearing their apparel, so I’m wondering whether the advent of Biostamps and similar devices will lead to fan apparel with similar devices built in, as worn by their favorites (hmmm: somehow I can’t see comparing my caloric intake with Big Papi …).

I see a lot of guys and gals around Boston with gray hair wearing the same gear, so I suspect the same approach might be a more productive way to get seniors to wear such devices than to design ones specifically for them.

This niche bears watching!

 

The New IoT Math: 1 + 1 + 3 — Jawbone UP24 now controls Nest thermostat

A chance conversation about the IoT the other day turned me on to this elegant proof-of-concept that what I call “Smart Aging” to help seniors be healthier and avoid institutionalization is possible: my Jawbone UP bracelet could now control my Nest thermostat (if I had one: with three heating zones in my house, I’m gonna wait until the NEST price drops before I’ll buy them…).

That, ladies and gentlemen, is exactly what I’m talking about with my concept of “Smart Aging” for seniors, which would combine:

  • Quantified Self devices such as Jawbone UPs, Nike FuelBand, the congestive heart failure necklace,  or the Biostamp sensor (more about that one in a future post!) that will easily and unobtrusively monitor your bodily indicators and, if you choose, report them to your doctor, both to improve diagnoses, and to encourage you to adopt healthy practices such as a daily walk.
  • smart home devices such as the NEST or the voice-activated Ivee hub.

Even better, if device manufacturers get it about one of my Essential Truths about the IoT:  who else could use this data?, they will allow free access to their algorithms, and someone will realize that 1+1=3: the two devices are even more powerful when linked! In this case, the Jawbone UP is powerful, and so is the Nest, but something totally new is possible when they are linked:

“By connecting your UP24 with your Nest Thermostat, the temperature of your house will automatically adjust to a temperature you prefer – the moment you go to bed or wake up.

“Through UP Insights, we have shared the fact that an ideal sleeping environment is cooler, between 65 and 72 degrees. With the Nest integration, we no longer just tell you this fact. We make it a reality. Once your band enters Sleep Mode, your thermostat will kick down to your ideal temperature. And when you wake? You guessed it. Your thermostat will automatically adjust to a warmer temperature… all without leaving your bed.”

Nest-2_thermostatJawbone_UpHow cool (or hot, depending on the season…) is that?

I particularly like it for seniors because of one UP feature: instead of setting a precise wake-up alarm, you also have the option of creating a 30-minute window when it it should vibrate to wake you, with the exact time determined by what the UP determines is the ideal point in your natural sleep cycle.  Some working people on extremely tight morning schedules may not want to take advantage of that option, but for seniors, answering to no one but themselves, that would be an added benefit: get the best possible sleep, AND get up in a warm house (oh, and while you’re at it, why not link in some Phillips HUE lights and a coffee pot plugged in to a Belkin WeMo socket, so that you’ll also have fresh-brewed coffee and a bright kitchen?).  Sweet!

Do the math: one IoT-empowered device is nice, but link several more of them, and 1 + 1 = 3 — or more!

Smart Toothbrush: another example of “just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should”

I absolutely love my current Braun electric toothbrush, because it (unlike the first one I had, which basically just spun around) has a timer that reminds me to brush each quadrant of my teeth for 30 seconds.  In the past, I never thought about what amount of time was optimal for brushing, let alone monitored how long I actually did so. As a result, I’m confident that I’m really keeping my teeth clean.

smart toothbrush

However, I just don’t get it about why I should transfer that info via Bluetooth to an app. Shouldn’t we be content with the bare minimum of technology that gets us to adopt better health practices, and, where relevant, to transfer that information to our doctors so they can get a better idea of our daily practices and state of health?  Maybe I’m nitpicking, but I do think it’s relevant to relay to your doctor potentially highly-variable data such as your daily Fitbit or Jawbone readings (as patients at certain MGH or Brigham & Womens’ practices can now do), but it seems to me that in the case of toothbrushing, it should be enough to simply provide feedback that lets you know you’re brushing enough, and leave it at that.

Thus, the “connected” toothbrush to me seems to violate one of my “Essential Truth” of the IoT, that “just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it.”

Again, I realize I may be splitting hairs here distinguishing between reporting some health data and not other. What do you think?  Let me know!

Apple iWatch: could they really make wearables acceptable to mass market?

The WSJ had a piece this week speculating on the rumored Apple iWatch (Disclaimer: I work part-time in an Apple Store. In that capacity I don’t know anything you don’t know — including whether the iWatch will actually ever happen! My sources for this blog are limited to publicly-available ones.).

The Journal notes that none of the smart watches released so far have had major penetration, and, as a further cautionary note, I’d point out that most people who start using a Jawb0ne UP, Nike FuelBand, etc. stop using them in several months (HELP: I recently read the data on that claim, but I can’t find the citation. Can you help me find it???).

HOWEVER, as I speculated recently in my posts on Apple’s soon-to-be-released HealthKit and HomeKit, the company has shown time-and-time-again over the past 15 years that it knows how to create disruptive devices (even though Clayton Christensen was skeptical, LOL!) and create huge new markets that make tech devices mainstream.

Given my new-found pre-occupation with “Smart Aging” through a combination of Quantified Self and smart home devices, I really like the idea of a smart watch for seniors. I haven’t worn a watch since I got my first Palm Pilot (wow: remember when they were cutting edge??), but seniors do, and I suspect that if they could get immediate feedback on their vital signs from something that was not only functional but fashionable and didn’t require any technical savvy, they wouldn’t feel stigmatized by wearing the watch, a critical factor in its widespread acceptance.

Let’s see what happens!

 

Apple HealthKit — Will It Bring About Patient-Doctor Paradigm Shift?

This is a companion piece to my last post, about the HomeKit Apple unveiled last week at the WWDC — complete with the same disclaimer: Having to send huge amounts of money to Loyola of Maryland for the next three years (I feel like I’m in the Weimar Republic and must carry tons of money to Baltimore in a wheelbarrow, LOL) to secure my youngest’s sheepskin has led to a part-time sales job at the Apple Store — which doesn’t give me any inside insights into their strategy. Rest assured that nothing that will ever appear in this blog about Apple will be gathered from anything other than public sources. I know only what you know, and the opinions expressed here are solely my own.

 

The other IoT developers’ kit that Apple unveiled was the HealthKit, combined with a new Health app that will be released along with iOS8.

They say the app will “give you an easy-to-read dashboard of your health and fitness data.”

The developers kit is designed to help health and fitness apps (… and wearables) work together.

Apple teases us that the package “just might be the beginning of a health revolution.”

Could it be the key to finally expanding interest in personal health data beyond those of us who are proud members of the Quantified Self, and could it be the catalyst in the revolution that I’ve predicted before: a new healthcare paradigm in which patients, empowered with data about their daily health stats, might become real partners with their doctors, improving their health while reducing the need for costly hospitalizations?

We’ll see, but I’ll be watching carefully, because — speaking of paradigm shifts — I wonder if the HealthKit and HomeKit, combined, may provide the tools (oops, originally typed fools.. LOL) to make my vision of empowered seniors, “aging in place” a reality.

     Emergency Card

Emergency Card

One feature of the Health app really resonated with me, because it offers an up-dated version of two sadly-dated “21st-Century Disaster Tips You WON’T Hear From Officials” videos that I did waaay back in 2007: one suggesting that you put your electronic health record on one of those new-fangled (LOL) thumb drives, and another, that you put an ICE (In Case of Emergency) listing on your cell-phone (pre-smartphone) directory. The Health App would combine that information on an “Emergency Card” that would be accessible to EMTs even from your lock screen. Neat!

Dr. Joe Kvedar, director of the Partners Health Care Center for Connected Health, my go-to guy for m-health analysis, struck a cautionary note:

“‘Expecting people to have an ‘aha’ moment because you’ve created a place where they can store data—you’ll be disappointed ….It needs to be much more compelling.’”

Apple seems to get it that privacy and security, always critical with any IoT device or app, would be of paramount importance when it comes to sharing one’s personal medical data:

“Patients could choose to share blood pressure readings with their doctor but not with another app, for example. Even so, patients are sure to be particularly sensitive about who has access to such information.

“’I think that the people doing these integration platforms need to have a privacy mechanism that is believable,’ says George Westerman, a research scientist at the MIT Center for Digital Business. ‘That takes not only a good policy but a brand people trust.’”

The prestigious Mayo Clinic is on-board, updating its app to coincide with release of Health, according to MIT’s Technology Review:

“The clinic’s app is expected to offer additional services, including ways to monitor  patients with asthma or diabetes. ‘If you see the glucose levels rising … you could interact with [the patient] if they had a question, intervene appropriately, and then decrease the need for an emergency room visit or a hospital admission, which we know drives up hospital and patient costs,’ says John Ward, Mayo’s medical director for public affairs.”

Truth to tell, I don’t always record my diet, weight and exercise exercise every day with Lose It!, and I’m well aware that most people who try QS apps don’t keep at them. However, I suspect the HealthKit, because of the mindshare and platform that it will create, may mean this will succeed where Google Health and Microsoft’s HealthVault have failed, and that it will eventually be cool to know what your health stats are — and to improve them.

 

 

 

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