Apple ResearchKit will launch medical research paradigm shift to crowd-sourcing

Amidst the hoopla about the new MacBook and much-anticipated Apple Watch, Apple snuck something into Monday’s event that blew me away (obligatory disclaimer: I work part-time at The Apple Store, but the opinions expressed here are mine).

My Heart Counts app

Four years after I proselytized about the virtues of democratizing data in my Data Dynamite: how liberating data will transform our world book (BTW: pardon the hubris, but I still think it’s the best thing out there about the attitudinal shift needed to capitalize on sharing data), I was so excited to learn about the new ResearchKit.

Tag line? “Now everybody can do their part to advance medical research.”

The other new announcements might improve your quality of life. This one might save it!

As Senior VP of Operations Jeff Williams said in announcing the kit,  the process of medical research ” ..hasn’t changed in decades.” That’s not really true: as I wrote in my book, the Quantified Self movement has been sharing data for several years, as well as groups such as CureTogether and PatientsLikeMe. However, what is definitely true is that no one has harnessed the incredible power of the smartphone for this common goal until now, and that’s really incredible. It’s a great example of my IoT Essential Truth of asking “who else could use this data?

A range of factors cast a pall over traditional medical research.

Researchers have had to cast a broad net even to get 50-100 volunteers for a clinical trial (and may have to pay them, to boot, placing the results validity when applied to the general population in doubt).  The data has often been subjective (in the example Williams mentioned, Parkinson’s patients are classified by a doctor simply on the basis of walking a few feet). Also, communication about the project has been almost exclusively one way, from the researcher to the patient, and limited, at best.

What if, instead, you just had to turn on your phone and open a simple app to participate? As the website says, “Each one [smartphone] is equipped with powerful processors and advanced sensors that can track movement, take measurements, and record information — functions that are perfect for medical studies.” Suddenly research can be worldwide, and involve millions of diverse participants, increasing the data’s amount and validity (There’s a crowdsourcing research precedent: lot of us have been participating in scientific crowdsourcing for almost 20 years, by installing the SETI@Home software that runs in the background on our computers, analyzing data from deep space to see if ET is trying to check in)!

Polymath/medical data guru John Halamka, MD wrote me that:

“Enabling patients to donate data for clinical research will accelerate the ‘learning healthcare system’ envisioned by the Institute of Medicine.   I look forward to testing out Research Kit myself!”

The new apps developed using ResearchKit harvest information from the Health app that Apple introduced as part of iOS8. According to Apple:

“When granted permission by the user, apps can access data from the Health app such as weight, blood pressure, glucose levels and asthma inhaler use, which are measured by third-party devices and apps…. ResearchKit can also request from a user, access to the accelerometer, microphone, gyroscope and GPS sensors in iPhone to gain insight into a patient’s gait, motor impairment, fitness, speech and memory.

Apple announced that it has already collaborated with some of the world’s most prestigious medical institutions, including Mass General, Dana-Farber, Stanford Medical, Cornell and many others, to develop apps using ResearchKit. The first five apps target asthma, breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.  My favorite, because it affects the largest number of people, is the My Heart Counts one. It uses the iPhone’s built-in motion sensors to track participants’ activity, collecting data during a 6-minute walk test from those who are able to walk that long. If participants also have a wearable activity device connecting with the Health app (aside: still don’t know why my Jawbone UP data doesn’t flow to the Health app, even though I made the link) , they are encouraged to use that as well. Participants will also enter data about their heart disease risk factors and their lab tests readings to get feedback on their chances of developing heart disease and their “heart age.” Imagine the treasure trove of cardiac data it will yield!

 A critical aspect of why I think ResearchKit will be have a significant impact is that Apple decided t0 make it open source, so that anyone can tinker with the code and improve it (aside: has Apple EVER made ANYTHING open source? Doubt it! That alone is noteworthy).  Also, it’s important to note, in light of the extreme sensitivity of any personal health data, that Apple guarantees that it will not have access to any of the personal data.

Because of my preoccupation with “Smart Aging,” I’m really interested in whether any researchers will specifically target seniors with ResearchKit apps. I’ll be watching carefully when the Apple Watch comes out April 24th to see if seniors buy them (not terribly optimistic, I must admit, because of both the cost and the large number of seniors I help at The Apple Store who are befuddled by even Apple’s user-friendly technology) because the watch is a familiar form factor for them (I haven’t worn a watch since I got my first cell phone, and most young people I know have never had one) and might be willing to use them to participate in these projects.

N0w, if you’ll excuse me, I just downloaded the My Heart Counts app, and must find out my “heart age!”


 

Doh!  Just after I posted this, I saw a really important post on Ars Technica pointing out that this brave new world of medical research won’t go anywhere unless the FDA approves:

“As much as Silicon Valley likes to think of itself as a force for good, disrupting this and pivoting that, it sometimes forgets that there’s a wider world out there. And when it comes to using devices in the practice of medicine, that world contains three very important letters: FDA. That’s right, the US Food and Drug Administration, which Congress has empowered to regulate the marketing and research uses of medical devices.

“Oddly, not once in any of the announcement of ResearchKit did we see mention of premarket approval, 510k submission, or even investigational device exemptions. Which is odd, because several of the uses touted in the announcement aren’t going to be possible without getting the FDA to say yes.”

I remember reading that Apple had reached out to the FDA during development of the Apple Watch, so I’m sure none of this comes as a surprise to them, and any medical researcher worth his or her salt is also aware of that factor. However, the FDA is definitely going to have a role in this issue going forward, and that’s as it should be — as I’ve said before, with any aspect of the IoT, privacy and security is Job One.

 

 

My take on the IoT at CES

Here I am languishing in bitterly-cold Massachusetts, while all the cool kids are playing with toys at CES!  I’ll try to get over it and give you my impressions of the Internet of Things new product introductions, as filtered through the lens of my IoT Essential Truths:

  • Perhaps the most important development is Samsung’s whole-hearted embrace of the IoT, building on its acquisition of SmartThings.  In his keynote, Samsung CEO BK Yoon struck exactly the right notes, emphasizing the need for open standards and collaboration.Within 5 years, all new Samsung products will be IoT enabled.Don’t forget that Samsung doesn’t just make consumer products, but also critical IoT tools such as sensors and chips.  Its 3-D range sensors that can detect tiny movements may be a critical IoT components.SmartThings CEO Alex Hawkinson was part of the presentation, and stressed:

    “For the Internet of Things to be a success, it has to be open, Any device, from any platform, must be able to connect and communicate with one another. We’ve worked hard to accomplish this, and are committed to putting users first, giving them the most choice and freedom possible.”

  • If was accurate, the GoBe calorie counter could be a great Quantified Self device. I still find it waaay to time-consuming and laboriously to look up specific foods’ caloric content and enter them into an app. However, The Verge says not so fast…..  What might be feasible is the InBody Bend, to measure the result of those calories — your body fat — and your heart rate. It’s also a pedometer and measures your calories burned. Oh, yeah, the Bend also tells time. Best of all, it will go 7-8 days between charges.
  • The HereO children’s watches seem like a great product for worried parents, allowing them to locate the wee ones via GPS.
  • While I think the key to realizing my “Smart Aging” paradigm shift will primarily be tweaking mainstream IoT Quantified Self and smart home devices for seniors’ special needs, there are some issues, such as hearing loss, that particularly affect seniors. In that category, Siemens’ Smart Hearing Aid looks promising, and an interesting example of enhancing a not-so-great existing product using IoT capabilities. A key is the unobtrusive clip-on easyTek  which complements the in-ear device, and can connect (via Bluetooth) to smartphones, computers or TVs, so that the hearing aides also function as earphones for those devices. As The Verge reports, even those with good hearing might end up using it.
  • However, my two favorite CES intros both enhance a decidedly 19th-century product, the bike.They illustrate the Essential TruthWhat Can You Do Now That You Couldn’t Do Before?
    Smart Pedal

    Smart Pedal

    One is a nifty substitute for a plain-vanilla pedal, from Connected Cycle. On a day-in-day-out basis, the pedal is a Quantified Self device, recording your speed, route, incline, and calories burned.

    However, when some miscreant steals your ride, it’s the two-wheel equivalent of Find My iPhone, telling you and the cops exactly where the bike’s located.

    Ok, that’s nice, but the other bike device introduced at CES can save your life!

    Smart Bike Helmet

    In the spirit of IoT collaboration, Volvo, Ericsson & sporting goods manufacturer POC have worked together on a smart helmet.

    The bike’s and the car’s locations are both uploaded to the cloud.

    If the  helmet is connected to a bike app such as Strava, built-in warning lights warn it there’s a car nearby, while a heads-up display on the dash warns the driver at the same time.

    I can’t see Volvo gaining any competitive advantage from this, and, of course, the technology will really only be effective if every hemet and every car are equipped with it, so I hope the partners will release it for universal adoption. Who would have ever thought that the IoT could peacefully bring bicyclists and motorists together. Just shows you that with the IoT, we’ll have to re-examine a lot of long-held beliefs!

 

I’ll be on “Game Changer” Radio Today @ 3 EST Talking About IoT

Huzzah!  I’ll be a guest on Bonnie Graham’s “Coffee Break With Game Changers” show live, today @ 3 PM to discuss the Internet of Things. SAP Radio

Other guests will include David Jonker, sr. director of Big Data Initiatives at SAP, and Ira Berk, vice-president of Solutions Go-to-market at SAP, who has global responsibility for the IoT infrastructure and middleware portfolio.

Among other topics that I hope to get to during the discussion:

  • The “Collective Blindness” meme that I raised recently — and how the IoT removes it.
  • The difficult shift companies will need to make from past practices, where information was a zero-sum game, where hoarding information led to profit, to one where sharing information is the key. Who else can use this information?
  • How the IoT can bring about an unprecedented era of “Precision Manufacturing,” which will not only optimize assembly line efficiency and eliminate waste, but also integrate the supply chain and distribution network.
  • The sheer quantity of data with the IoT threatens to overwhelm us. As much as possible, we need to migrate to “fog computing,” where as much data as possible is processed at the edge, with only the most relevant data passing to the cloud (given the SAP guys’ titles, I assume this will be of big interest to them.
  • The rise of IFTTT.com, which means device manufacturers don’t have to come up with every great way to use their devices: use open standards, just publish the APIs to IFTTT, and let the crowd create creative “recipes” to use the devices.
  • Safety and security aren’t the other guy’s problem: EVERY device manufacturer must build in robust security and privacy protections from the beginning. Lack of public trust can undermine everyone in the field.
  • We can cut the cost of seniors’ care and improve their well being, through “smart aging,” which brings together Quantified Self fitness devices that improve their care and make health care a doctor-patient partnership, and “smart home” devices that automate home functions and make them easier to manage.

Hope you can listen in.  The show will be archived if you can’t make it for the live broadcast .

Apple Watch: killer app for IoT and lynchpin for “smart aging”

Wow: glad I put up with all of the tech problems during the Apple product launch today: the Apple Watch was worth it! It really seems as if it will be the killer device/app for the Internet of Things consumer market, and I think it may also be the lynchpin for my vision of “smart aging,” which would link both wearable health devices and smart home devices.

The elegant, versatile displays (it remains to be seen how easy it will be for klutzes like me to use the Digital Crown and some of the other navigation tools) plus the previously announced Health and Home Apps that are part of iOS 8 could really be the glue that brings together Quantified Self and smart home devices, making “smart aging” possible.

Activity AppIt will take some time to learn all about the watch and to see what apps the “Watch Kit” spawns, but here are some immediate reactions:

  • sorry, but I think it could kill the Lechal haptic shoes before they get off the ground: why have to pay extra for shoes that will vibrate to tell you where to go when your watch can do the same thing with its “Taptic Engine”?
  • I think I’ll also ditch my Jawbone UP, as much as I love it, for the Apple Watch: the video on how the Activity and Workout apps will work makes it look incredibly simple to view your fitness data instantly, vs. having to open an app on your phone.
  • (Just dreaming here): if they can pull off that neat “Milanese Loop” band on one of the versions that clamps to itself, what about not just a heart beat monitor, but a band that converts into a blood-pressure cuff? Guess that wouldn’t be accurate on the wrist, anyway, huh?

Wearables: love these new shoes that tell you where to go!

Wow! What if you were blind, and instead of a white cane, your shoes gave you directions? Or, even for people with no disabilities, you were navigating a strange city, and instead of having to constantly check Google Maps, your shoes showed the way? Pretty neat!

Lechal sensor shoe

Check out the snazzy new Lechal shoe from India’s Ducere Technologies.

The shoe, also available as an insert that can go in your own plain-vanilla shoes, was invented by two young US-educated Indian entrepreneurs, Krispian Lawrence and Anirudh Sharma, who had a vision (ooops!) of using technology to help the visually impaired.

It’s billed as the “world’s first interactive haptic footware” (bet your mom would be shocked if she knew you were wearing haptic footware, eh?).  When synched to the Lechal smartphone app, it vibrates to tell you which way to go.

And the water-resistant, breathable and anti-bacterial shoes have other features: “For those with 20/20 vision or near they are still useful – they can also calculate routes, steps taken, distance covered and calories burn to monitor workouts.”

I can see these as a critical tool for seniors as part of my “smart aging” paradigm as well, especially for those with dementia or Alzheimers.

As with other Quantified Self devices, you can share your walking and other data with friends via the device.

Here’s a cool feature: it claims to have the “world’s first interactive charger”: it gives audio feedback if you snap your fingers, and beeps to tell you the progress of charging, and the charger can be used as a fast charger for most phones, cutting down on the number of chargers you have to ride herd on.

Oh, BTW, Ducere gets extra points in my book because they don’t take themselves too seriously. To wit, “The technology that powers the shoe is embedded in its sole (pun intended).”

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!