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At Apple’s big product launch event yesterday, the company announced that the third version of its Watch will, as rumored, have LTE cellular capability onboard. This untethering from the iPhone is major news for health and medical applications, as are new features including activity coaching, a swimming app, the gym equipment connect function, and an updated heart rate monitor, which will measure and track resting heart rate, heart rhythm, recovery heart rate, and provide a notification if it detects an elevated heart rate when you’re not active.
The new iPhone X will feature augmented reality (AR) and facial ID biometric measurement for unlocking the phone as well as providing emotion-sensing, which will enable animated emoji based on how you’re feeling or expressing yourself. This obviously adds another potentially-valuable layer to mental health monitoring and data for online mental health services. The AR capability will enable many entertainment features, but has broad health and medical applications, for example here is a list of ten healthcare apps compiled by MedPage Today . And former NFL player Chris Kluwe has a great TED Talk on how AR can be used in sports and also build empathy . Here’s a product promo video from Apple.
While I enjoy surfing 🏄 — and the lack of digital interruptions and distractions provide an important ‘digital detox’ from my work during the day — the following is a very cool promo video of a surfer using the Apple Watch 3. Note: I would love to be riding that wave, which is at one of the best surf spots in the world!
Validating yet again the importance of physical activity to our health, an NIH-funded study, ” Patterns of Sedentary Behavior and Mortality in U.S. Middle-Aged and Older Adults: A National Cohort Study“, has concluded that the total volume of sedentary time and its accrual in prolonged, uninterrupted bouts are associated with all-cause mortality. Where previous studies relied on self-reporting, this study used hip-mounted accelerometers to track sedentary time.
SPORTS AND FITNESS
BBC News featured the Strava app in an article entitled ” The app that inspires tens of millions to go cycling“. Launched in 2009, Strava now has ‘tens of millions of users’ and, reportedly, adds one million new users every 45 days. Connecting the dots with Apple and the study above, it’s obvious that anything that motivates physical activity — be it digital or otherwise— is critical to our health.
The new Ionic smartwatch from Fitbit will join the Apple Watch in integrating Dexcom’s continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) system for diabetes management. Dexcom CGM users can see both activity and glucose levels on their wrist. While the Ionic will have built-in GPS, it won’t have LTE cellular connectivity, like the new Apple Watch 3, putting it at a serious disadvantage in the marketplace.
LIVING AND SOCIETY
In a scathing WaPo critique of the four largest digital tech companies — the so-called GAFA: Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon — Franklin Foer writes that Silicon Valley is erasing our individuality. He states that “t heir devices and sites have collapsed privacy and they disrespect the value of authorship. They justify monopoly by suggesting that competition merely distracts from the important problems like erasing language barriers and building artificial brains.” He adds that we must stop marveling at what is happening and consider the consequences of these monopolies and take action to “reassert our role in determining the human path.”
In the new game, “South Park: The Fractured but Whole,” the level of game-play difficulty is directly tied to the color of your character’s skin. In what seems to be meant as a reminder of racial inequality, the game’s difficulty slider shows that it will become more challenging as you darken your character’s skin tone. In the game, South Park character Eric Cartman says, “Don’t worry, this doesn’t affect combat. Just every other aspect of your whole life.”
Spain has fined Facebook $1.4M for privacy violations related to its data-harvesting activities. The issues revolve around Facebook’s collection, storage, and use of consumer data (including web browsing cookies) for advertising purposes. The Spanish data-collection regulator ruled that the company is doing this without obtaining adequate user consent. Data collected includes information on user “ideology, sex, religious beliefs, personal tastes and navigation — either directly, through users’ use of its services or from third party pages.”
Telecoms and other companies plus organizations are using drones more and more to help after natural disasters. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have recently devastated parts of the U.S., and drones are being used to help identify power and communications outages for more rapid restoration. They are also being utilized by fire departments, insurance companies, relief organizations, and even journalists.
In an interview in The Sunday Times(subscription required to read), UK Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has mapped out the NHS’ digital future. The intro text to the piece rather eloquently states that “It’s now a little over a decade since Steve Jobs stepped confidently onto a stage in California and brought the world into the smartphone era. Since then, there’s been no shortage of debate about the implications of our ever more connected, always-on digital lifestyles. Technology now governs every aspect of our lives. How we shop, how we work, how we play, even how we vote have all been transformed by the march of digital. It has brought risk as well as benefits, not least in its impact on our mental health. But what can’t be disputed is technology’s overwhelming power to disrupt traditional ways of working and create new possibilities for consumers. In healthcare, the pace has been slightly slower but the direction is just…”
A piece in NPR points out that radiologists — who make $400,000/year, on average — see their jobs at risk due to ‘machines’. According to radiology fellow Phelps Kelley, “The biggest concern is that we could be replaced by machines. Radiology has become commoditized over the years. People don’t want interaction with a radiologist, they just want a piece of paper that says what the CT shows.” Dr. Bob Wachter, an internist and author of “The Digital Doctor”, echoes this point, stating that “Radiology, at its core, is now a human being, based on learning and his or her own experience, looking at a collection of digital dots and a digital pattern and saying ‘That pattern looks like cancer or looks like tuberculosis or looks like pneumonia. Computers are awfully good at seeing patterns.”
The Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team of the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security has issued a cybersecurity warning for Smiths Medical’s MedFusion 4000 wireless syringe infusion pumps. The devices are used in hospitals to administer drugs, blood, antibiotics, and other fluids to patients. Eight separate vulnerabilities were discovered by security researcher Scott Gayou, including that the FTP server on the pump does not require authentication if the pump is configured to allow FTP connections.
The FDA is staffing its dedicated digital health unit. The first public job requisition posting is for an Interdisciplinary Engineer.
The FDA has permitted marketing of the first mobile medical application to help treat substance use disorders (SUD). Pear Therapeutics’ Reset application is intended to be used with outpatient therapy to treat alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, and stimulant SUDs, but not opioid dependence. The system delivers cognitive behavioral therapy to patients to teach them user skills that aid in the treatment of SUD and are intended to increase abstinence from substance abuse and increase retention in outpatient therapy programs. As Pear Therapeutics states on its website, Prescription digital therapeutics are clinically validated, FDA-cleared software applications that demonstrate safety and efficacy in randomized clinical trials to improve patient outcomes. They are designed to enhance clinical outcomes, and where clinically relevant may be combined with current treatment regimens including approved drug or device therapies. Prescription digital therapeutics usually include patient-facing applications, clinical assessment and outcomes tracking, clinician monitoring dashboards, and HIPAA-compliant data storage.
California-based Eaze, a startup leveraging technology for medical marijuana delivery, has raised $27M and will add recreational marijuana delivery to its services. CEO Jim Patterson states that “We are a tech startup investing in growth.” Eaze’s sales have grown 300% in the last year, and with California poised to license the cultivation and sale of recreational marijuana in early-2018, the market in which Eaze operates will grow even further. By comparison, the total market in Colorado, where recreational marijuana is already legal, is $100M in sales per month.
Researchers at the California Institute of Technology have designed DNA robots with ‘bodies’, ‘hands’, ‘arms’, and ‘feet’ that can transport molecular cargo . The scalable system might one day be used for targeted drug delivery, with the robots “walking” to a tumor location and performing surgery. Unfortunately, there is potential for the robots to interact with human DNA, which creates a risk of the robot’s genetic code integrating with the human genome.
There’s another promo video out for the Apple Watch, this one featuring a multitude of digital health applications. I was emotionally-affected while watching it, as I think you will be, too. Titled “Dear Apple”, the video’s descriptions is as follows: People reach out to Apple all the time to say how Apple Watch is helping them live healthier lives. Here, real customers read the actual stories they shared.
LIVING AND SOCIETY
Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can have difficulty making conversation with others, so scientists at the University of Toronto created an app for Google Glass that listens to conversations and suggests what kids can say. Professor Azadeh Kushki says the app is not intended to replace human-to-human interactions, but to help children practice skills outside of therapy sessions and provide increased independence.
Researchers at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand found that people who were rejected by a robot can feel sadness and even anger, with one person going so far as to tell the robot to “get f**ked.” A total of 147 subjects played the game Connect 4 with a 6-ft tall humanoid robot that sometimes concluded the game with “That was boring! I don’t want to play with you again. Goodbye.”
The advertising industry is up in arms over Apple’s latest effort to protect consumer privacy via a new ‘Intelligent Tracking Prevention’ feature in the upcoming release of the Safari Internet browser. In a letter to Apple, six advertising groups are asking the company to rethink the feature, laughably saying that it would “sabotage the economic model for the internet” and that without the ability to personalize ads based on our Internet activity, companies like Facebook and YouTube will struggle to make money. According to Apple’s John Wilander, “The success of the web as a platform relies on user trust. Many users feel that trust is broken when they are being tracked and privacy-sensitive data about their web activity is acquired for purposes that they never agreed to.”
A woman who was unable to get pregnant and was battling depression plus unemployment turned to a video game—The Sims 4—for a form of therapy. Unfortunately, after creating 11 virtual Sim families, she found her depression worsening. As she explained, “escapism can be healthy and healing; it’s refreshing to vacate our consciousness and temporarily retreat into another reality, particularly when life gets stressful. But sometimes escapism, especially escaping into alternative virtual worlds, contributes to the problem. By replaying my fantasy life over and over again—get the dream job, get pregnant—I was avoiding taking the necessary but boring and potentially painful proactive steps towards real-life employment and pregnancy.”
A Chinese business has created an on-demand sharing app for sex dolls. The app—called Ta Qu, or ‘Touch’ in English —has just initiated a trial launch that allows users to choose from five different dolls. According to a social media post by the company, the doll-sharing service can “address all the needs of single geeks. Tap and it will be delivered to your door, and the single life is over for good.” According to Noel Sharkey, Emeritus Professor of Robotics and AI at the University of Sheffield, Chair of the NGO International Committee for Robot Arms Control, Co-Director of the Foundation for Responsible Robotics, and co-author of the report “Our Sexual Future With Robots”, “Sex robots may become widespread and norms could shift to accommodate them.”
Senator Bernie Sanders has introduced legislation that would create a universal health care system—aka ‘Medicare for All’—in the United States. According to Sanders, “This is where the country has got to go. Right now, if we want to move away from a dysfunctional, wasteful, bureaucratic system into a rational health-care system that guarantees coverage to everyone in a cost-effective way, the only way to do it is Medicare for All.” Similar to how the Affordable Care Act helped foster preventive health efforts, getting rid of private insurance middle men could also be a boon for digital health solutions that focus on disease prediction and prevention, as opposed to the current system focused primarily on treating people once they are already sick. An overview of the plan is here and a detailed breakdown is here.
Conan O’Brien has put together a hilarious video about the new Apple iPhone X’s Face ID feature: “Consumers Have Questions About Apple’s Facial Recognition Software”. As the video’s description aptly puts it, some of the questions Apple received about their new facial recognition software were suspicious to say the least.
Twitter user @ivdv illustrated a perfect way to ‘own’ that awkward notch located on the top of the iPhone X: “So here’s a nice wallpaper for your iPhone X, OWNING the notch.”
CNS Summit 2017
Nov 16-19 in Boca Raton, FL
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Nov 29-30 in London, UK,
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March 21-23 in Leipzig, Germany
Copyright © 2017 Paul Sonnier
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